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Perception. 2004;33(6):689-715.

Visual guidance of intercepting a moving target on foot.

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Department of Cognitive Science, Carnegie Building 305, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, NY 12180-3590, USA.


How do people walk to a moving target, and what visual information do they use to do so? Under a pursuit strategy, one would head toward the target's current position, whereas under an interception strategy, one would lead the target, ideally by maintaining a constant target-heading angle (or constant bearing angle). Either strategy may be guided by the egocentric direction of the target, local optic flow from the target, or global optic flow from the background. In four experiments, participants walked through a virtual environment to reach a target moving at a constant velocity. Regardless of the initial conditions, they walked ahead of the target for most of a trial at a fairly constant speed, consistent with an interception strategy (experiment 1). This behavior can be explained by trying to maintain a constant target-heading angle while trying to walk a straight path, with transient steering dynamics. In contrast to previous results for stationary targets, manipulation of the local optic flow from the target (experiment 2) and the global optic flow of the background (experiments 3 and 4) failed to influence interception behavior. Relative motion between the target and the background did affect the path slightly, presumably owing to its effect on perceived target motion. We conclude that humans use an interception strategy based on the egocentric direction of a moving target.

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