The response to background motion: Characteristics of a movement stabilization mechanism

Emily M. Crowe*, Jeroen B.J. Smeets, Eli Brenner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


When making goal-directed movements toward a target, our hand deviates from its path in the direction of sudden background motion.We propose that this manual following response arises because ongoing movements are constantly guided toward the planned movement endpoint. Such guidance is needed to compensate for modest, unexpected self-motion. Our proposal is that the compensation for such self-motion does not involve a sophisticated analysis of the global optic flow. Instead, we propose that any motion in the vicinity of the planned endpoint is attributed to the endpoint’s egocentric position having shifted in the direction of the motion. The ongoing movement is then stabilized relative to the shifted endpoint. In six experiments, we investigate what aspects of motion determine this shift of planned endpoint. We asked participants to intercept a moving target when it reached a certain area. During the target’s motion, background structures briefly moved either leftward or rightward. Participants’ hands responded to background motion even when each background structure was only briefly visible or when the vast majority of background structures remained static. The response was not restricted to motion along the target’s path but was most sensitive to motion close to where the target was to be hit, both in the visual field and in depth. In this way, a movement stabilization mechanism provides a comprehensive explanation of many aspects of the manual following response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) under project number 464.18.111 awarded to Eli Brenner.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. Journal of Vision. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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