Pitch body orientation influences the perception of self-motion direction induced by optic flow

  • Bourrelly Aurore
  • Vercher J. -L.
  • Bringoux L.

  • Egocentric
  • Geocentric
  • Spatial perception
  • Body orientation
  • Heading
  • Self-motion
  • Reference frame


We studied the effect of static pitch body tilts on the perception of self-motion direction induced by a visual stimulus. Subjects were seated in front of a screen on which was projected a 3D cluster of moving dots visually simulating a forward motion of the observer with upward or downward directional biases (relative to a true earth horizontal direction). The subjects were tilted at various angles relative to gravity and were asked to estimate the direction of the perceived motion (nose-up, as during take-off or nose-down, as during landing). The data showed that body orientation proportionally affected the amount of error in the reported perceived direction (by 40% of body tilt magnitude in a range of +/- 20 degrees) and these errors were systematically recorded in the direction of body tilt. As a consequence, a same visual stimulus was differently interpreted depending on body orientation. While the subjects were required to perform the task in a geocentric reference frame (i.e., relative to a gravity-related direction), they were obviously influenced by egocentric references. These results suggest that the perception of self-motion is not elaborated within an exclusive reference frame (either egocentric or geocentric) but rather results from the combined influence of both. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.