Perception Action Cognition Occasional Talks

Perception of Human and Animal Bodies

Perception of the human body is special because it is very familiar to view and also because it is similar to an observer’s own body. We conducted a series of experiments to investigate the effects of biomechanical constraints (possible or impossible postures) on perception of the human body. In a first experiment we showed that it is more difficult to recognize impossible postures and actions than possible postures and actions. These results suggest that our brain uses some knowledge of biomechanical constraints to perceive the human body. Next, we investigated the difference between the perception of human and animal bodies. Human observers could discriminate actual animal biological motions from human mimicry of those motions, but performance decreased with inversion. Thus, the perceptual system for perceiving animal bodies is partly identical to that for perceiving human bodies.