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Perceived object stability depends on multisensory estimates of gravity.

Barnett-Cowan, Michael ; Fleming, Roland W ; Singh, Manish ; Bülthoff, Heinrich H Barnett-Cowan, Michael (correspondence author) ; Barnett-Cowan, Michael (record owner)

PloS one, April 27, 2011, Vol.6(4), p.e19289 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Perceived object stability depends on multisensory estimates of gravity.
  • Author: Barnett-Cowan, Michael ; Fleming, Roland W ; Singh, Manish ; Bülthoff, Heinrich H
  • Barnett-Cowan, Michael (correspondence author) ; Barnett-Cowan, Michael (record owner)
  • Subjects: Brain–Physiology ; Gravitation–Physiology ; Humans–Physiology ; Observer Variation–Physiology
  • Is Part Of: PloS one, April 27, 2011, Vol.6(4), p.e19289
  • Description: BACKGROUNDHow does the brain estimate object stability? Objects fall over when the gravity-projected centre-of-mass lies outside the point or area of support. To estimate an object's stability visually, the brain must integrate information across the shape and compare its orientation to gravity. When observers lie on their sides, gravity is perceived as tilted toward body orientation, consistent with a representation of gravity derived from multisensory information. We exploited this to test whether vestibular and kinesthetic information affect this visual task or whether the brain estimates object stability solely from visual information. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGSIn three body orientations, participants viewed images of objects close to a table edge. We measured the critical angle at which each object appeared equally likely to fall over or right itself. Perceived gravity was measured using the subjective visual vertical. The results show that the perceived critical angle was significantly biased in the same direction as the subjective visual vertical (i.e., towards the multisensory estimate of gravity). CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCEOur results rule out a general explanation that the brain depends solely on visual heuristics and assumptions about object stability. Instead, they suggest that multisensory estimates of gravity govern the perceived stability of objects, resulting in objects appearing more stable than they are when the head is tilted in the same direction in which they fall.
  • Language: English
  • Identifier: E-ISSN: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019289

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