Causal Inference in the Perception of Verticality

Ksander N. De Winkel, Mikhail Katliar, Daniel Diers, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

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32 Citations (Scopus)


The perceptual upright is thought to be constructed by the central nervous system (CNS) as a vector sum; by combining estimates on the upright provided by the visual system and the body's inertial sensors with prior knowledge that upright is usually above the head. Recent findings furthermore show that the weighting of the respective sensory signals is proportional to their reliability, consistent with a Bayesian interpretation of a vector sum (Forced Fusion, FF). However, violations of FF have also been reported, suggesting that the CNS may rely on a single sensory system (Cue Capture, CC), or choose to process sensory signals based on inferred signal causality (Causal Inference, CI). We developed a novel alternative-reality system to manipulate visual and physical tilt independently. We tasked participants (n = 36) to indicate the perceived upright for various (in-)congruent combinations of visual-inertial stimuli, and compared models based on their agreement with the data. The results favor the CI model over FF, although this effect became unambiguous only for large discrepancies (±60°). We conclude that the notion of a vector sum does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the perception of the upright, and that CI offers a better alternative.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5483
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Dec 1

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© 2018 The Author(s).

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