Timing of steering actions in locomotor interception of targets following curving trajectories

  • van Opstal Albertha A M
  • Casanova Remy
  • Zaal Frank T J M
  • Bootsma Reinoud J.


Recent work on the visual guidance of locomotor interception of nonuniformly moving targets argued for an early reliance on first-order (velocity-based) changes in the target's bearing angle that was complemented approximately 1 second later with reliance on second-order (acceleration-based) changes. Here we provide further support for this hypothesis in a virtual driving task, in which 19 participants steered a vehicle to intercept targets moving along receding circular trajectories. Adopting a set of carefully designed target trajectories, we tested discriminating predictions with respect to the timing and direction of the first steering action. Analyses of temporal and directional characteristics of first steering events revealed a pattern of results that was fully compatible with our predictions. Moreover, application of the recently developed QuID method, focusing on the temporal co-evolution of steering behavior and the potential information sources driving it, confirmed the operative progression from early reliance on first-order changes to subsequent (after approximately 1 second) reliance on a combination of first-and second-order changes in the target's bearing angle over the course of action at the individual-trial level. The finding of an evolution over time toward higher-order informational variables, potentially captured by a fractional-order time derivative, may have consequences for other locomotor interception tasks such as running to catch a fly ball.