The influence of visual flow and perceptual load on locomotion speed

Casimir J.H. Ludwig*, Nicholas Alexander, Kate L. Howard, Alicja A. Jedrzejewska, Isha Mundkur, David Redmill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visual flow is used to perceive and regulate movement speed during locomotion. We assessed the extent to which variation in flow from the ground plane, arising from static visual textures, influences locomotion speed under conditions of concurrent perceptual load. In two experiments, participants walked over a 12-m projected walkway that consisted of stripes that were oriented orthogonal to the walking direction. In the critical conditions, the frequency of the stripes increased or decreased. We observed small, but consistent effects on walking speed, so that participants were walking slower when the frequency increased compared to when the frequency decreased. This basic effect suggests that participants interpreted the change in visual flow in these conditions as at least partly due to a change in their own movement speed, and counteracted such a change by speeding up or slowing down. Critically, these effects were magnified under conditions of low perceptual load and a locus of attention near the ground plane. Our findings suggest that the contribution of vision in the control of ongoing locomotion is relatively fluid and dependent on ongoing perceptual (and perhaps more generally cognitive) task demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69–81
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Early online date19 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017.
Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Funding: Wellcome Trust multi-user equipment grant (089367/Z09/Z) to CL.


  • Dual-task
  • Locomotion
  • Perceptual load
  • Self-motion
  • Visual flow


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