point-light display

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A moving image of small light sources attached to the principal joints of a person's body (usually shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles), filmed as the person moves around in the dark, introduced by the Swedish psychologist Gunnar Johansson (1911–98) and first published in the journal Perception and Psychophysics in 1973. Static point-light displays, even when several are viewed as a sequence, look like meaningless constellations, but the moving image is almost instantly (after two or three frames) and irresistibly interpreted as a human body in motion, and from such displays familiar people can be recognized easily from their characteristic gaits, the sexes of unknown people can be reliably judged even when cues relating to physical size are eliminated, and the weights of objects being lifted can be accurately judged to within 3–4 kg. The perception created by a point-light display is also called biological motion or biomechanical motion.

Subjects: Psychology.

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