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Motion-induced spatial conflict


Borders defined by small changes in brightness (luminance contrast) or by differences in colour (chromatic contrast) appear to move more slowly than those defined by strong luminance contrast1,2,3,4. As spatial coding is influenced by motion5,6,7, if placed in close proximity, the different types of moving border might appear to drift apart8. Using this configuration, we show here that observers instead report a clear illusory spatial jitter of the low-luminance-contrast boundary. This visible interaction between motion and spatial-position coding occurred at a characteristic rate ( 22.3 Hz), although the stimulus motion was continuous and invariant. The jitter rate did not vary with the speed of movement. The jitter was not due to small involuntary movements of the eyes, because it only occurred at a specific point within the stimulus, the low-luminance-contrast boundary. These findings show that the human visual system contains a neural mechanism that periodically resolves the spatial conflict created by adjacent moving borders that have the same physical but different perceptual speeds.

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Figure 1: ‘Fluttering hearts’ illusion.
Figure 2: Schematic diagrams of the stimulus configurations.
Figure 3: Perceived jitter.
Figure 4: Perceived jitter rate.


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We are grateful to C. Clifford, J. Dale, F. Kandil, S. Nishida and Q. Zaidi for their suggestions and comments.

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Correspondence to Derek H. Arnold.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Information: this zip file contains an executable file which demonstrates the apparent jitter of slow moving borders. (ZIP 10 kb)

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Arnold, D., Johnston, A. Motion-induced spatial conflict. Nature 425, 181–184 (2003).

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