Human visual motion perception shows hallmarks of Bayesian structural inference

Published Date: 
February 12, 2021


Motion relations in visual scenes carry an abundance of behaviorally relevant information, but little is known about how humans identify the structure underlying a scene's motion in the first place. We studied the computations governing human motion structure identification in two psychophysics experiments and found that perception of motion relations showed hallmarks of Bayesian structural inference. At the heart of our research lies a tractable task design that enabled us to reveal the signatures of probabilistic reasoning about latent structure. We found that a choice model based on the task's Bayesian ideal observer accurately matched many facets of human structural inference, including task performance, perceptual error patterns, single-trial responses, participant-specific differences, and subjective decision confidence-especially, when motion scenes were ambiguous and when object motion was hierarchically nested within other moving reference frames. Our work can guide future neuroscience experiments to reveal the neural mechanisms underlying higher-level visual motion perception.


Sichao Yang, Johannes Bill, Jan Drugowitsch, Samuel J Gershman