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❚ movement ✱ Barbara Tversky

human sensitivity to biological motion

Human sensitivity to biological motion documented by Gunnar Johansson, Swedish perceptual psychologist, 1973, using point-light videos (people dressed in black with small lights attached to their joints, head, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hips, et.c, performing a common set of human movements. Static image of any of the point-light bodies is unidentifiable, but once the set of dots is set in motion, you can immediately see that it’s a human body, you know if it’s walking or running or dancing, you know if it’s a man or a woman (by the ratio of the shoulders to the hips), you can tell if it’s happy or sad, energetic or tired, heavy or light.

(In the recent experiment with a group of friends) people were pretty good at recognizing their friends from their friends’ movements but poor at recognizing strangers. Participants were best at recognizing themselves! Most of us don’t spend a lot of time looking at our movements in the mirror …, motor resonance, seems to underlie that impressive ability …, their mirror systems resonated to the actions they were seeing as if they were trying the movements on for size. When they watched videos of themselves in action, the movements fit perfectly, they felt right, felt natural, felt like themselves.

body in motion installation milan design week