Out of the corner of your eye
Most of the actions we encounter in our daily lives do not occur right in front of us, but rather in our visual periphery. Some social cognitive theories suggest that moving actors in frontal views are generally faster recognized than in profile views - at least in the center of the field of vision. Laura Fademrecht and her colleagues from the Department of Prof. Bülthoff at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biological Cybernetics wanted to investigate if this is similar in the visual periphery.
Our scientist Laura Fademrecht (incl. Isabelle Bülthoff, Stephan de la Rosa) has published a new study in Science Direct, which reveals that peripheral vision indeed fulfills an important role.
1. What is your study all about?
I wanted to investigate if moving actors in frontal views are generally faster recognized than in profile views in the visual periphery. We demonstrated that action recognition in the visual periphery depends on the view of the action. Furthermore, we revealed that the visual abilities of peripheral vision have been underestimated and that it might play a more important role for recognition in daily life than merely directing our gaze to events in our environment.
2. Why were you interested in this topic?
A few minutes at a local café allow one to appreciate the wide array of actions humans are capable of expressing: people shaking hands, hugging each other, waving for the waiter's attention. As ordinary as these actions are, they remain exceedingly difficult to understand from a scientific point of view. I think it is very interesting to investigate how the brain performs the complex process of recognizing the many different actions humans usually perform. Especially the role of peripheral vision in the daily recognition of actions in our life is interesting, since most of the actions we encounter occur in our visual periphery.
3. What should the average person take away from your study?
In sum, this work provides evidence that the abilities of peripheral vision have been underestimated and that peripheral vision might play a more important role in daily life than merely triggering gaze saccades to events in our environment.
4. What is the added value of your study/paper for society?
Action recognition in the visual periphery is surprisingly good. Therefore, peripheral vision seems to play an important role for our social behavior. The results so far indicate that the recognition of actions differs from object recognition, which deteriorates faster towards the periphery.
5. Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
The influence of attention on the action recognition abilities of far visual periphery still needs to be investigated.