Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

No logical thinking required: causality judgments can be „felt“

11.01.2013
We often make causality judgments when we perceive successive visual events, such as “the glass was knocked over by the hand“.

A research team led by Martin Rolfs at the Bernstein Center and Humboldt University Berlin, has now revealed that these judgments arise from fundamental visual processes – without involving higher cognitive reasoning. They showed that, with prolonged viewing of causal events, an adaptation process takes place that resembles those observed in the perception of size, color, or motion of an object. The result ends a long-standing debate about the level at which higher-order properties of visual events are computed.

The hand hits a glass, it falls over, and the milk spills over the kitchen table. The observer is immediately sure that it was the clumsy hand that caused this little mishap. Until now, researchers have disagreed whether this causality judgment depends on higher brain functions such as cognitive reasoning, or whether it emerges at an earlier stage during perception, similar to the evaluation of size, color, or motion of an object. An international team of researchers including Martin Rolfs at the Bernstein Center Berlin, Michael Dambacher at the University of Konstanz, and professor Patrick Cavanagh at the University Paris Descartes has now found the answer to this question: Rapid causality judgments are made at the level of visual perception.

In their study, participants watched a repeating video clip in which one disc moved towards another, and the latter disc started to move after being touched by the first. Instead of seeing one disc stopping and the next disc starting to move, both events are seen as one continuous action where the first disc launches the second – similar to colliding billiard balls. Rolfs and his colleagues have now demonstrated that after the repeated observation of these collision scenes, an adaption process occurs: Subsequent interactions involving two discs are less likely to be seen as causal. Similar adaptation aftereffects are known after the repeated perception of basic properties such as color: After looking at an orange light for a short while, you will see a light blue spot when looking at a white wall. These visual aftereffects suggest a habituation of the populations of neurons in those parts of the brain that analyze these specific qualities.

The main result of the study: The adaptation to collision events was specific to the location where the collisions had been seen. Moreover, when the eyes moved, these adapted locations moved with the eyes, just as the color afterimage shifts as you move the eyes around. According to the researchers, these results show that the neuronal structures involved in the judgment of causality must be part of the early visual process as higher level cognitive processes do not show this specificity to eye position. Main investigator Rolfs: “The result moves functions that have previously been thought of as achievements of cognitive deduction into the realm of basic perception, with implications for fields as diverse as philosophy, psychology, and robotics.”

The Bernstein Center Berlin is part of the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience in Germany. With this funding initiative, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the new discipline of Computational Neuroscience since 2004 with over 170 Mio. €. The network is named after the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1835-1017).

Contact:
Dr. Martin Rolfs
Bernstein Zentrum Berlin und
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Philippstr. 13, Haus 6
10115 Berlin
eMail: martin.rolfs@bccn-berlin.de
Tel: +49 (0)30 2093-6775
Original publication:
Rolfs, M., Dambacher, M., Cavanagh, P. (2013): „Visual adaption of the perception of causality“. Current Biology: Jan 10, 2013.
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2812%2901490-X
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.017

Mareike Kardinal | idw
Further information:
http://www.bccn-berlin.de/
http://www.hu-berlin.de/
http://www.nncn.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>