Visual adaptation alters the apparent speed of real-world actions

George Mather*, Rebecca Sharman, Todd Parsons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
80 Downloads (Pure)


The apparent physical speed of an object in the field of view remains constant despite variations in retinal velocity due to viewing conditions (velocity constancy). For example, people and cars appear to move across the field of view at the same objective speed regardless of distance. In this study a series of experiments investigated the visual processes underpinning judgements of objective speed using an adaptation paradigm and video recordings of natural human locomotion. Viewing a video played in slow-motion for 30 seconds caused participants to perceive subsequently viewed clips played at standard speed as too fast, so playback had to be slowed down in order for it to appear natural; conversely after viewing fast-forward videos for 30 seconds, playback had to be speeded up in order to appear natural. The perceived speed of locomotion shifted towards the speed depicted in the adapting video (‘re-normalisation’). Results were qualitatively different from those obtained in previously reported studies of retinal velocity adaptation. Adapting videos that were scrambled to remove recognizable human figures or coherent motion caused significant, though smaller shifts in apparent locomotion speed, indicating that both low-level and high-level visual properties of the adapting stimulus contributed to the changes in apparent speed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6738
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date27 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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