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The stroboscopic Pulfrich effect is not evidence for the joint encoding of motion and depth

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jenny ReadORCiD


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In the Pulfrich effect, an illusion of depth is produced by introducing differences in the times at which a moving object is presented to the two eyes. In the classic form of the illusion, there is a simple explanation for the depth percept: the interocular delay introduces a spatial disparity into the stimulus. However, when the moving object is viewed stroboscopically, this simple explanation no longer holds. In recent years, depth perception in the stroboscopic Pulfrich effect has been explained by invoking neurons that are sensitive both to stereo disparity and to direction of motion. With such joint motion/disparity encoders, interocular delay causes a perception of depth by causing a shift in each neuron's preferred disparity. This model has been implemented by N. Qian and R. A. Andersen (1997). Here we show that this model's predictions for perceived disparity are quantitatively at odds with psychophysical measures. The joint-encoding model predicts that the perceived disparity is the virtual disparity implied by the apparent motion; in fact, the perceived disparity is smaller. We show that the percept can be quantitatively explained on the basis of spatial disparities present in the stimulus, which could be extracted from pure disparity sensors. These results suggest that joint encoding of motion and depth is not the dominant neuronal basis of depth perception in this stimulus.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Read JC, Cumming BG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Vision

Year: 2005

Volume: 5

Issue: 5

Pages: 417-434

ISSN (electronic): 1534-7362

Publisher: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology


DOI: 10.1167/5.5.3

Notes: I ran the psychophysics experiment, did the data analysis and mathematical modelling.


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