Last week we asked our readers to identify the agents and actions in some point light displays. These displays show the motion of the joints of the actor (say, a human walker) and we are remarkably good at identifying various actors, actions, and even emotions.
Our three movies showed some kind of quadripedal action, and we provided a long list of possible anwers. Two of our three movies depicted very typical actions for the actor–a dog walking, and a human baby crawling. The third movie showed something slightly unusual–a human adult crawling. Did the unusualness of the action matter?
Here are the top responses we got as people viewed the movie showing an adult human crawling. For the most part, people successfully matched the actor and action, though a sizable group understood the action to be that of a gorilla. There is a significant interaction between certain kinds of experience and identifying this movie: parents were more likely to see this figure as human than dog owners. Dog owners are more likely to say “gorilla,” and parents are more likely to mistake the crawling adult for a crawling baby. So, how do dog owners do with the actual dog movie?
Well, most folks do recognize the dog as a dog, with the two pig options a distant second. However, the parents are actually more accurate than the dog owners. Almost all the parents also had pets (not just dogs), which actually makes the difference more interesting: Something about being a parent seems to be adding to the ability to interpret action. The final movie was a crawling baby, something parents certainly dealt with at some point (though we didn’t ask how old the children were).
So much for parenting and visual expertise! By far the most popular response to our crawling baby was “gorilla walking.” In fact, both parents and dog owners are equally likely to identify the baby as a crab or a kangaroo! Stripped down to its essence, the action of a crawling baby is really tough to recognize.