One of the ways we perceive shape is through seeing motion. Visual motion may be actively generated (for example, in locomotion), or passively observed. In the study of how we perceive 3D structure from motion (SfM), the non-moving, passive observer in an environment of moving rigid objects has been used as a substitute for an active observer moving in an environment of stationary objects; the 'rigidity hypothesis' has played a central role in computational and experimental studies of SfM. Here we demonstrate that this substitution is not fully adequate, because active observers perceive 3D structure differently from passive observers, despite experiencing the same visual stimulus: active observers' perception of 3D structure depends on extra-visual self-motion information. Moreover, the visual system, making use of the self-motion information treats objects that are stationary (in an allocentric, earth-fixed reference frame) differently from objects that are merely rigid. These results show that action plays a central role in depth perception, and argue for a revision of the rigidity hypothesis to incorporate the special case of stationary objects
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