Hierarchical structure is employed by humans during visual motion perception

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Johannes Bill

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Hrag Pailian

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Samuel J Gershman

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Jan Drugowitsch

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In the real world, complex dynamic scenes often arise from the composition of simpler parts. The visual system exploits this structure by hierarchically decomposing dynamic scenes: when we see a person walking on a train or an animal running in a herd, we recognize the individual's movement as nested within a reference frame that is itself moving. Despite its ubiquity, surprisingly little is understood about the computations underlying hierarchical motion perception. To address this gap, we developed a novel class of stimuli that grant tight control over statistical relations among object velocities in dynamic scenes. We first demonstrate that structured motion stimuli benefit human multiple object tracking performance. Computational analysis revealed that the performance gain is best explained by human participants making use of motion relations during tracking. A second experiment, using a motion prediction task, reinforced this conclusion and provided fine-grained information about how the visual system flexibly exploits motion structure. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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