Basic Causality & Animacy Demos
 
 
Here are some demonstrations of the various phenomena and manipulations discussed in the following paper:
Scholl, B. J., & Tremoulet, P. (2000). Perceptual causality and animacy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4(8), 299-309.
These demonstrations are provided as Quicktime movies, which can be downloaded or viewed directly in most web-browsers. These movies are a bit large and choppy, but they should be sufficient to illustrate the basic manipulations. If you have any trouble viewing the movies, downloading them and then playing them from your local hard-drive may help. As highly compressed versions of the original stimuli constructed for demonstration purposes, these movies may not preserve the precise spatial and temporal characteristics of the originals.  
 
Basic Causality Phenomena
Certain simple visual displays consisting of moving 2D geometric shapes can give rise to percepts with high-level properties such as causality and animacy. We recently reviewed the contemporary research on such phenomena, which began with the classic work of Michotte and of Heider and Simmel. The importance of such phenomena stems in part from the fact that these interpretations seem to be largely perceptual in nature -- to be fairly fast, automatic, irresistible, and highly stimulus-driven -- despite the fact that they involve impressions typically associated with higher-level cognitive processing. This research suggests that just as the visual system works to recover the physical structure of the world by inferring properties such as three-dimensional shape, so too does it work to recover the causal and social structure of the world by inferring properties such as causality. For our review article, we created several demonstrations of some basic phenomena of the perception of causality (see the paper for details):  
 
Basic Animacy Phenomena
For our review article, we also created an analogue of the infamous 'perceptual animacy' demonstration of Heider and Simmel (1944). This is provided here both with symmetric 'blocks' as shapes, and also with oriented 'darts' as shapes. Though Heider & Simmel did not study these dart-like stimuli, we and other researchers have recently noted that that the orientation cues in such stimuli can greatly strengthen the perception of animacy in these displays. These demonstrations are all 640 x 480 pixels, and are provided in both Flash and standard Quicktime versions.