Biological motion shown backwards: The apparent-facing effect

Marina Pavlova, Ingeborg Krägeloh-Mann, Niels Birbaumer, Alexander Sokolov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined how showing a film backwards (reverse transformation) affects the visual perception of biological motion. Adults and 6-year-old children saw first a point-light quadruped moving normally as if on a treadmill, and then saw the same display in reverse transformation. For other groups the order of presentation was the opposite. Irrespective of the presentation mode (normal or reverse) and of the facing of the point-light figure (rightward or leftward), a pronounced apparent-facing effect was observed: the perceptual identification of a display was mainly determined by the apparent direction of locomotion. The findings suggest that in interpreting impoverished point-light biological-motion stimuli the visual system may neglect distortions caused by showing a film backwards. This property appears to be robust across perceptual development. Possible explanations of the apparent-facing effect are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-443
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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