Johansson's (1973) point light walkers remain one of the most compelling demonstrations of how motion can determine the perception of form. Most studies of biological motion perception have presented isolated point-light figures in unstructured environments. Recently we have begun to explore the perception of human motion using more naturalistic displays and tasks. Here, we report new findings on the perception of gender using a visual search paradigm. Three-dimensional walking sequences were captured from human actors (4 male, 4 female) using a 7 camera motion capture system. These sequences were processed to produce point-light computer models which were displayed in a simple virtual environment. The figures appeared in a random location and walked on a random path within the bounds of an invisible virtual arena. Walkers could face and move in all directions, moving in both the frontal parallel plane and in depth. In separate blocks observers searched for a male or a female target among distractors of the opposite gender. Set size was varied from between 1 and 4. Targets were present on 50% of trials. Preliminary results suggest that both male and female observers can locate targets of the opposite gender faster than targets of the same gender.
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