Motion Perception

Watching movies and television shows is a frequent activity for many of us. Many of us also know that the ‘actions’ we see on the screen are actually many different “static images” quickly flashing by. Why, then, do we perceive these images as fluid motion? “Why Do Movies Move?,” posted on Psychology Today’s website ( discusses exactly what processes are going on that makes this illusion possible.

Understanding the images is divided among various parts of the occipital lobe, which eventually reassembles the properties of the image. The most important aspect of motion sensing is located in the area of the brain called the MT which “…looks for blobs that have changed position.” The MT does not sense specific characteristics of the ‘blobs’ such as color or texture, but when it senses that a subject has moved location slightly it signals, giving us the illusion of motion.

Brain Area MT

This can cause problems when producers cut images and scenes together. If not done correctly, items could appear to jump around the room causing a “jarring sense of movement” referred to as a “jump cut.” This sensation occurs because the parts of the brain that process other characteristics such as size, color, shape, etc. may not process the movement leaving the audience with a “sense of motion without having a clear sense of what moved.”

Millions of people watch television and movies on a daily basis for a variety of reasons from entertainment to educational purposes. I feel that it is important to understand the processes that affect our every day lives. Although it is only one of many, without it our day to day routines would greatly affected.