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Are direction and speed coded independently by the visual system? Evidence from visual search

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Three visual search experiments examined whether motion is coded as two separate features, speed and direction. Increasing the heterogeneity of the directions in which stimuli moved disrupted detection of a target defined by speed (fast among medium and slow nontargets), suggesting that speed is coded integrally with direction. However, heterogeneity in speed did not disrupt detection of a target moving in a particular direction among nontargets with different directions. This suggests that direction is coded independently of speed. The apparent paradox raised by these contrasting conclusions is consistent with neurophysiological and computational models of motion-detection, which suggest that low-levels of the visual system contain direction-detectors insensitive to speed, while speed is coded at higher levels by detectors which are also sensitive to direction. Evidence consistent with the existence of the latter conjunction detectors was obtained in a final experiment which found search for a conjunction of speed and direction to be parallel.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK; 2: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford OXI 3UD, UK; 3: Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK


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