Is optic flow used to guide walking while wearing a displacing prism?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Rushton et al (1998 Current Biology 8 1191 - 1194) recently showed that walkers wearing displacing prisms follow curved trajectories determined by the perceived direction of their target. This suggests that optic flow is not important in guidance, since flow cues are unaffected by the prism and should allow a straight, direct trajectory. We replicated Rushton et al's result but also tried to rule out an important artifact associated with the prism. Prisms restrict the field of view and, particularly, access to the foreground optic flow that is likely to be important in providing guidance cues. We found that performance did not improve when walkers directed their gaze to include the foreground flow, suggesting that Rushton et al's results were not due to this artifact. On the other hand, performance did reliably improve when subjects reduced their viewing height by crawling towards the target. This improvement may be due to coarsening of the visual texture or to increased salience of alignment and motion-parallax cues. Whatever its cause, the improvement demonstrates that guidance is not determined only by perceived target direction and that, under some conditions, flow may be important.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-818
Number of pages8
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001