The Optics and Actions of Catching Fly Balls: Zeroing Out Optical Acceleration

Claire F. Michaels, Raul R.D. Oudejans

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Advancing or retreating so as to maintain a projectile's constant vertical optical velocity was suggested by Chapman (1968) as a possible basis for locomotion in ball catching. Three experiments examined this thesis. In Experiments 1 and 2, the positions of balls and catchers were videotaped to see if the movements of the catchers canceled optical acceleration. Such canceling was indeed observed until just prior to the catch for hand-thrown balls (Experiment 1). The monocular availability of the information predicts success with monocular viewing, confirmed in Experiment 2 with machine-thrown balls. In Experiment 3, observers judged whether a ball (represented as a moving dot on a computer screen) would land at, in front of, or behind them. Performance was above chance, but only some observers used acceleration. Together, the experiments provide broad, though not unequivocal, support for the utilization of optical acceleration to guide locomotion in catching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-222
Number of pages24
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1992


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