Neural Information Processing



New article accepted for publication in "i-Perception"

Title: "Phenomenal Causality and Sensory Realism" by Kristof Meding, Sebastian A. Bruijns, Bernhard Schölkopf, Philipp Berens and Felix A. Wichmann


One of the most important tasks for humans is the attribution of causes and effects in all wakes of life. The first systematical study of visual perception of causality – often referred to as phenomenal causality – was done by Albert Michotte using his now well-known launching events paradigm. Launching events are the seeming collision and seeming transfer of movement between two objects – abstract, feature less stimuli (“objects”) in Michotte’s original experiments. Here we study the relation between causal ratings for launching events in Michotte’s setting and launching collisions in a photo-realistically computer-rendered setting. We presented launching events with differing temporal gaps, the same launching processes with photo-realistic billiard balls, as well as photo-realistic billiard balls with realistic motion dynamics, i.e., an initial rebound of the first ball after collision and a short sliding phase of the second ball due to momentum and friction. We found that providing the normal launching stimulus with realistic visuals led to lower causal ratings, but realistic visuals together with realistic motion dynamics evoked higher ratings. 2D versus 3D presentation, on the other hand, did not affect phenomenal causality. We discuss our results in terms of intuitive physics as well as cue conflict.