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Exp Brain Res. 2001 Feb;136(4):543-52.

The effect of frequency on the visual perception of relative phase and phase variability of two oscillating objects.

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Department of Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405, USA.


Relative phase has been studied extensively as a measure of interlimb coordination. Only two relative phases, namely 0 degrees and 180 degrees, are stably produced at the preferred frequency (approximately 1 Hz). When frequency is increased, movement at 180 degrees becomes unstable and relative phase typically switches to 0 degrees, which remains stable at higher frequencies. The current study was designed to investigate the perception of relative phase and of phase variability. Observers viewed two circles moving rhythmically in a computer display. Mean phases varied from 0 degrees to 180 degrees in 30 degrees steps. Phase variability at each mean phase varied from 0 degrees to 5 degrees, 10 degrees, and 15 degrees phase standard deviation (SD). Frequency of oscillation was either 0.75 Hz or 1.25 Hz. One group of ten observers judged mean relative phase. Another group judged phase variability. As predicted, increase in frequency yielded an increase in perceived phase variability at 180 degrees mean phase and other mean phases, but not at 0 degrees mean phase. In contrast, increase in actual phase variability affected judgments of 0 degrees mean phase most strongly. A second control experiment showed that the frequency effects were not produced by changes in display durations or frames per cycle of oscillation. The results are consistent with those in studies of interlimb coordination and indicate that understanding of interlimb coordination requires further investigation of phase perception.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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