Motion-based nearest vector metric for reference frame selection in the perception of motion
We investigated how the visual system selects a reference frame for the perception of motion. Two concentric arcs underwent circular motion around the center of the display, where observers fixated. The outer (target) arc's angular velocity profile was modulated by a sine wave midflight whereas the inner (reference) arc moved at a constant angular speed. The task was to report whether the target reversed its direction of motion at any point during its motion. We investigated the effects of spatial and figural factors by systematically varying the radial and angular distances between the arcs, and their relative sizes. We found that the effectiveness of the reference frame decreases with increasing radial-and angular-distance measures. Drastic changes in the relative sizes of the arcs did not influence motion reversal thresholds, suggesting no influence of stimulus form on perceived motion. We also investigated the effect of common velocity by introducing velocity fluctuations to the reference arc as well. We found no effect of whether or not a reference frame has a constant motion. We examined several form-and motion-based metrics, which could potentially unify our findings. We found that a motion-based nearest vector metric can fully account for all the data reported here. These findings suggest that the selection of reference frames for motion processing does not result from a winner-take-all process, but instead, can be explained by a field whose strength decreases with the distance between the nearest motion vectors regardless of the form of the moving objects.