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07-08-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2020

Psychological Research 3/2020

When flow is not enough: evidence from a lane changing task

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2020
Xin Xu, Guy Wallis


Humans are able to estimate their heading on the basis of optic flow information and it has been argued that we use flow in this way to guide navigation. Consistent with this idea, several studies have reported good navigation performance in flow fields. However, one criticism of these studies is that they have generally focused on the task of walking or steering towards a target, offering an additional, salient directional cue. Hence, it remains a matter of debate as to whether humans are truly able to control steering in the presence of optic flow alone. In this study, we report a set of maneuvers carried out in flow fields in the absence of a physical target. To do this, we studied the everyday task of lane changing, a commonplace multiphase steering maneuver which can be conceptualized without the need for a target. What is more (and here is the crucial quirk), previous literature has found that in the absence of visual feedback, drivers show a systematic, asymmetric steering response, resulting in a systematic final heading error. If optic flow is sufficient for controlling navigation through our environment, we would expect this asymmetry to disappear whenever optic flow is provided. However, our results show that this asymmetry persisted, even in the presence of a flow field, implying that drivers are unable to use flow to guide normal steering responses in this task.

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