How do people predict how objects move?

    • Topic: Human Biology

    • Location: Hall of Human Life

    Interacting with objects and people is an important part of everyday life, particularly when we interact with a moving object. For example, when we want to catch a ball we need to anticipate the ball coming towards us and then move our hand to make contact. If we wanted to dodge a ball we would also need to predict its motion through time and space in order to avoid contact. We want to know how people coordinate their motion and predictions about moving objects.

    In this study, people (ages 5 and older) will play 5 virtual games that involve catching. Some games will require predicting where and when a virtual ball (or cheese) will land. In other games you will actually move a paddle to catch the virtual ball or save a cheese from a virtual mouse eating it! People will play these games by pressing buttons or moving a specially designed paddle. These games are meant to be challenging for everyone.

    We predict that performance will improve with age, but do not have specific predications about the age range at which performance on any specific task will start or stop improving.

    This study will help us understand how we make predictions, especially when you need to move to interact with an object. The same experiment is performed in our lab with people who have an autism spectrum disorder. This study will help us better understand the unique developmental trajectories of motor control in neurotypical people and those with an autism spectrum disorder.

    Northeastern University Action Lab

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    Activities to Try in the Hall of Human Life

    Keeping Your Balance

    Find the “Is Your Balance As Good As It Gets?” link station in the Time environment. This activity challenges you to think about your balance in a new way. You will need to shift your balance to coordinate the motion of a ball through a maze. You will need to make the ball move in the direction you want at the time you want in order to reach the end.

    This task is hard. Can you identify why? Is it perfecting your timing, moving in the right direction, or a bit of both? Think about all of the work you did today to keep your balance just traveling through the Museum.

    Activities to Try at Home

    Catching a Flying Object

    The games in this study were all about making sure that we can successfully interact with virtual moving objects. How does that compare to moving objects in real life?

    Catching a ball lets you experiment with prediction, both spatially and temporally. When a flying object is approaching, you have to readily prepare your body and hands to catch it.

    When you are at home, try throwing a ball with a friend at different speeds and different heights. Is it easier to catch a ball when someone throws it at you underhand vs overhand? Why do you think that is?

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