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How visual action shapes active vision

Project description

Scrutinizing visual actions to understand perception

Visual actions are essential for your ability to see: You glance quickly at your watch to check the time, or turn around when you hear your name. The EU-funded VIS-Á-VIS project will investigate the distinct kinematic rules that visual actions obey as they directly govern the input to the visual system. The project will form an interdisciplinary team and apply innovative technology, tools and experimental protocols to study how the active visual system learns and applies the relation between visual actions and their sensory consequences to establish core perceptual processes such as perceptual omission, object continuity and sense of agency. It will uncover how properties of visual actions are tightly weaved into the processes of visual perception.


A key component of visual perception is our ability to move: In a flick of the eye, we see the time on the watch, and we quickly turn around if we hear our name in the crowd. Whereas other movements aim to change the state of the world, visual actions shift our eyes, heads, and bodies to align the retina with currently relevant parts of the world. Although they vitally extend the scope of high-acuity vision, their immediate sensory consequences have challenged scientists for centuries: How do we not experience the brisk motion of the entire scene on the retina every time the eyes move (perceptual omission)? How does the brain keep track of objects’ changing retinal locations across consecutive glances (object continuity). And how do we routinely attribute retinal motion to our own movements rather than to motion in the world (sense of agency). To explain these phenomena, research and theories across disciplines have focused on how the brain—using its knowledge about ongoing movement plans—predicts and compensates for undesirable side effects of visual actions. I pursue a radically new perspective based on a key insight: Visual actions follow distinct kinematic rules, and as every visual action translates directly into a movement of the world on the retinal image, these rules also directly govern the sensory input. Their sensory consequences can thus be distinguished from motion in the world based on the rules they follow. In embracing this idea, I challenge the long-standing idea that visual actions are a nuisance to sensory processing and propose instead that they support core functions in active vision. In an interdisciplinary team, we will leverage innovative technology, state-of-the-art psychophysical tools and robust experimental protocols to find out if and how the active visual system learns and exploits the lawful relation between visual actions and their sensory consequences, to establish perceptual omission, object continuity, and the sense of agency.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 000 000,00
10117 Berlin

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Berlin Berlin Berlin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 000 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)