It's easy to walk from the living room to the hallway, the hallway to the bathroom, and so on. Yet scientists have long argued about how people navigate to a destination.
A virtual reality device that allows individuals to walk through a world in which the laws of optics systematically go awry may help settle this debate, a team of cognitive scientists reports in the February Nature Neuroscience.
It's possible that a person moving toward a target aligns it within the tunnel-like rush of visual stimuli, known as optic flow, that bombards the eyes. In contrast, observers may gauge the direction of a target relative to their own body by centering the target in their line of sight and then moving forward.
Or the visual system employs both of these tactics, depending on how much optic flow is provided by one's surroundings, contend William H. Warren of Brown University in Providence, R.I., and his coworkers in their report.
In their study, 10 volunteers