Judgments of path, not heading, guide locomotion
Wilkie, R. M. and Wann, J. P. (2006) Judgments of path, not heading, guide locomotion. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Human Perception and Performance, 32 (1). pp. 88-96. ISSN 0096-1523
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1037/0096-15126.96.36.199
To steer a course through the world, people are almost entirely dependent on visual information, of which a key component is optic flow. In many models of locomotion, heading is described as the fundamental control variable; however, it has also been shown that fixating points along or near one's future path could be the basis of an efficient control solution. Here, the authors aim to establish how well observers can pinpoint instantaneous heading and path, by measuring their accuracy when looking at these features while traveling along straight and curved paths. The results showed that observers could identify both heading and path accurately (similar to 3 degrees) when traveling along straight paths, but on curved paths they were more accurate at identifying a point on their future path (similar to 5 degrees) than indicating their instantaneous heading (similar to 13 degrees). Furthermore, whereas participants could track changes in the tightness of their path, they were unable to accurately track the rate of change of heading. In light of these results, the authors suggest it is unlikely that heading is primarily used by the visual system to support active steering.