Perceptual insensitivity to higher-order statistical moments of coherent random dot motion

Michael L. Waskom, Janeen Asfour, Roozbeh Kiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When the visual system analyzes distributed patterns of sensory inputs, what features of those distributions does it use? It has been previously demonstrated that higherorder statistical moments of luminance distributions influence perception of static surfaces and textures. Here, we tested whether the brain also represents higher-order moments of dynamic stimuli. We constructed random dot kinematograms, where dots moved according to probability distributions that selectively differed in terms of their mean, variance, skewness, or kurtosis. When viewing these stimuli, human observers were sensitive to the mean direction of coherent motion and to the variance of dot displacement angles, but they were insensitive to skewness and kurtosis. Observer behavior accorded with a model of directional motion energy, suggesting that information about higher-order moments is discarded early in the visual processing hierarchy. These results demonstrate that use of higher-order moments is not a general property of visual perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Kurtosis
  • Motion energy
  • Motion perception
  • Random dots
  • Skewness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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