Optimal inference explains the perceptual coherence of visual motion stimuli

James H Hedges and Alan A Stocker and Eero P Simoncelli
Journal of Vision, 11(6):14, May 2011, p. 1-16

The local spatiotemporal pattern of light on the retina is often consistent with a single translational velocity which may also be interpreted as a superposition of spatial patterns translating with different velocities. Human perception reflects such interpretations, as can be demonstrated using stimuli constructed from a superposition of two drifting gratings. Depending on a variety of parameters, these stimuli may be perceived as a coherently moving plaid pattern or as two transparent gratings moving in different directions. Here, we propose a quantitative model that explains how and why such interpretations are selected. An observer's percept corresponds to the most probable interpretation of noisy measurements of local image motion, based on separate prior beliefs about the speed and singularity of visual motion. This model accounts for human perceptual interpretations across a broad range of angles and speeds. With optimized parameters, its components are consistent with previous results in motion perception.

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