Internal model of gravity influences configural body processing

Abstract : Human bodies are processed by a configural processing mechanism. Evidence supporting this claim is the body inversion effect, in which inversion impairs recognition of bodies more than other objects. Biomechanical configuration, as well as both visual and embodied expertise, has been demonstrated to play an important role in this effect. Nevertheless, the important factor of body inversion effect may also be linked to gravity orientation since gravity is one of the most fundamental constraints of our biology, behavior, and perception on Earth. The visual presentation of an inverted body in a typical body inversion paradigm turns the observed body upside down but also inverts the implicit direction of visual gravity in the scene. The orientation of visual gravity is then in conflict with the direction of actual gravity and may influence configural processing. To test this hypothesis, we dissociated the orientations of the body and of visual gravity by manipulating body posture. In a pretest we showed that it was possible to turn an avatar upside down (inversion relative to retinal coordinates) without inverting the orientation of visual gravity when the avatar stands on his/her hands. We compared the inversion effect in typical conditions (with gravity conflict when the avatar is upside down) to the inversion effect in conditions with no conflict between visual and physical gravity. The results of our experiment revealed that the inversion effect, as measured by both error rate and reaction time, was strongly reduced when there was no gravity conflict. Our results suggest that when an observed body is upside down (inversion relative to participants' retinal coordinates) but the orientation of visual gravity is not, configural processing of bodies might still be possible. In this paper, we discuss the implications of an internal model of gravity in the configural processing of observed bodies.
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Julien Barra, Patrice Senot, Laurent Auclair. Internal model of gravity influences configural body processing. Cognition, Elsevier, 2017, 158, pp.208 - 214. ⟨10.1016/j.cognition.2016.10.018⟩. ⟨hal-01568948⟩

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