Representational momentum in the motor system?

Volker H. Franz, Ian M. Thornton, Manfred Fahle, Heinrich H. Buelthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: If presented with a moving object which suddenly disappears observers usually misjudge the object's last seen position as being further forward along the path of motion. This effect, called representational momentum, can also be seen in objects that change size or shape. It has been argued that the effect is due to perceptual anticipation. We tested whether a similar effect is present in the motor system. Methods: Using stereo computer graphics we presented cubes of different sizes on a CRT monitor. In each trial three cubes were successively presented for 200 msec with increasing or decreasing size (steps of 1 cm width difference). Ten participants either compared the last cube to a comparison cube (perceptual task) or grasped the cube using a virtual haptic setup (motor task). The setup consisted of two robot arms (Phantom TM) attached to index finger and thumb. The robot arms were controlled to create forces equivalent to the forces created by real objects. The CRT monitor was viewed via a mirror such that the visual position of the cubes matched the position of the virtual haptic objects. Results: In the motor task participants opened their fingers by 1.1+/-0.4 mm wider if they grasped a cube that was preceded by smaller cubes than if they grasped a cube that was preceded by larger cubes. This is the well-known representational momentum effect. In the perceptual task the effect was reversed (-2.2+/-0.4 mm). The effects correlated between observers (r=.71, p=.02). Conclusions: It seems that a representational momentum occurs also in grasping tasks. The correlation between observers suggests that the motor effect is related to the perceptual effect. However, our perceptual task showed a reversed effect. Reasons for this discrepancy will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253a
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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