Two independent mechanisms for motion-in-depth perception: evidence from individual differences

Harold Nefs, Louise O'Hare, Julie Harris

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64 Citations (Scopus)
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Our forward-facing eyes allow us the advantage of binocular visual information: using the tiny differences between right and left eye views to learn about depth and location in three dimensions. Our visual systems also contain specialized mechanisms to detect motion-in-depth from binocular vision, but the nature of these mechanisms remains controversial. Binocular motion-in-depth perception could theoretically be based on first detecting binocular disparity and then monitoring how it changes over time. The alternative is to monitor the motion in the right and left eye separately and then compare these motion signals. Here we used an individual differences approach to test whether the two sources of information are processed via dissociated mechanisms, and to measure the relative importance of those mechanisms. Our results suggest the existence of two distinct mechanisms, each contributing to the perception of motion-in-depth in most observers. Additionally, for the first time, we demonstrate the relative prevalence of the two mechanisms within a normal population. In general, visual systems appear to rely mostly on the mechanism sensitive to changing binocular disparity, but perception of motion-in-depth is augmented by the presence of a less sensitive mechanism that uses interocular velocity differences. Occasionally, we find observers with the opposite pattern of sensitivity. More generally this work showcases the power of the individual differences approach in studying the functional organization of cognitive systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number155
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2010


  • Motion-in-depth
  • Stereopsis
  • Individual differences
  • Interocular velocity differences
  • Depth motion


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