Prospective Control in Catching: The Persistent Angle-of- Approach Effect in Lateral Interception

  • Ledouit Simon
  • Casanova Rémy
  • Zaal Frank T. J. M.
  • Bootsma Reinoud J.


In lateral interception tasks balls converging onto the same interception location via different trajectories give rise to systematic differences in the kinematics of hand movement. While it is generally accepted that this angle-of-approach effect reflects the prospective (on-line) control of movement, controversy exists with respect to the information used to guide the hand to the future interception location. Based on the pattern of errors observed in a task requiring visual extrapolation of line segments to their intersection with a second line, angle-of-approach effects in lateral interception have been argued to result from perceptual biases in the detection of information about the ball's future passing distance along the axis of hand movement. Here we demonstrate that this account does not hold under experimental scrutiny: The angle-of-approach effect still emerged when participants intercepted balls moving along trajectories characterized by a zero perceptual bias with respect to the ball's future arrival position (Experiment 4). Designing and validating such bias-controlled trajectories were done using the line-intersection extrapolation task (Experiments 2 and 3). The experimental setup used in the present series of experiments was first validated for the lateral interception and the line-intersection extrapolation tasks: In Experiment 1 we used rectilinear ball trajectories to replicate the angle-of-approach effect in lateral interception of virtual balls. Using line segments extracted from these rectilinear ball trajectories, in Experiment 2 we replicated the reported pattern of errors in the estimated locus of intersection with the axis of hand movement. We used these errors to develop a set of bias-free trajectories. Experiment 3 confirmed that the perceptual biases had been corrected for successfully. We discuss the implications on the information-based regulation of hand movement of our finding that the angle-of-approach effect in lateral interception cannot not explained by perceptual biases in information about the ball's future passing distance.