Physical and Causal Judgments for Object Collisions Depend on Relative Motion

AbstractHuman judgments about the physical attributes of---and causal relationship between---two colliding objects have been studied extensively over the past seventy years. Recent computational evidence suggests that judgments about the mass ratio of two colliding objects, as well as their perceived causal relation, can be explained by a coherent framework based on a Newtonian physical model and probabilistic inference resulting from noisy observations of object movements. However, it remains unclear how the physical and causal reasoning systems interact with the motion perception system when forming these judgments. The current study aims to examine whether high-level judgments are guided by object motion represented as relative motion with reference to a moving background, or as absolute motion with reference to a stationary position in the world. Both experimental evidence and model simulation results support the notion that physical and causal inference in object collisions depend on relative motion rather than absolute motion.

Return to previous page