Inverted dancers have more acute visuomotor perception

Previous studies have determined that astronauts can judge inverted movements better than people on Earth due to the astronauts’ unique visuomotor experience with inverted movements in space.

Now, a new study, in which University of Wyoming researchers played key lead roles, shows that people on Earth with extended visuomotor experience with inverted movements — such as vertical dancers — can overcome the inversion effect in perceiving biological motion.

Qin Zhu, a UW professor of kinesiology and health, was lead and senior author of a paper titled “Extended Visuomotor Experience With Inverted Movements Can Overcome the Inversions of Effect in Biological Motion Perception” that was published Oct. 20 in Scientific Reports, an online peer-reviewed, open-access journal that covers all areas of the natural sciences.

“As indicated by the title of the article, we proved that the inversion effect in biological motion perception (BMP) can be overcome,” Zhu says. “BMP is intriguing because it is a survival skill humans and animals both share. We can read the motions produced by others in same or different species and figure out who the actor is and what is intended by the actor. So, we can better prepare our response, either to escape or engage. However, if the motion is performed upside-down, or inverted, such a capability will be greatly impaired.”

Margaret Wilson, professor and head of the UW Department of Theatre and Dance, was second author of the paper. For the study, Wilson provided the list of vertical dance movements; facilitated motion-capture of the movements; recruited vertical dancers for the experiment; and revised the paper.

Xiaoye Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto, was another lead author of the paper. Zhu worked with Wang to conceptualize and implement the study; analyze results; and draft and revise the paper.

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