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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(2):178-88. Epub 2005 Jan 7.

Cognitive, perceptual and action-oriented representations of falling objects.

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  • 1Department of Neuromotor Physiology, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, via Ardeatina 306, 00179 Rome, Italy.

Abstract

We interact daily with moving objects. How accurate are our predictions about objects' motions? What sources of information do we use? These questions have received wide attention from a variety of different viewpoints. On one end of the spectrum are the ecological approaches assuming that all the information about the visual environment is present in the optic array, with no need to postulate conscious or unconscious representations. On the other end of the spectrum are the constructivist approaches assuming that a more or less accurate representation of the external world is built in the brain using explicit or implicit knowledge or memory besides sensory inputs. Representations can be related to naive physics or to context cue-heuristics or to the construction of internal copies of environmental invariants. We address the issue of prediction of objects' fall at different levels. Cognitive understanding and perceptual judgment of simple Newtonian dynamics can be surprisingly inaccurate. By contrast, motor interactions with falling objects are often very accurate. We argue that the pragmatic action-oriented behaviour and the perception-oriented behaviour may use different modes of operation and different levels of representation.

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