The Z-Box illusion: dominance of motion perception among multiple 3D objects

Joshua E. Zosky, Michael D. Dodd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present article, we examine a novel illusion of motion—the Z-Box illusion—in which the presence of a bounding object influences the perception of motion of an ambiguous stimulus that appears within. Specifically, the stimuli are a structure-from-motion (SFM) particle orb and a wireframe cube. The orb could be perceived as rotating clockwise or counterclockwise while the cube could only be perceived as moving in one direction. Both stimuli were presented on a two-dimensional (2D) display with inferred three-dimensional (3D) properties. In a single experiment, we examine motion perception of a particle orb, both in isolation and when it appears within a rotating cube. Participants indicated the orb’s direction of motion and whether the direction changed at any point during the trial. Accuracy was the critical measure while motion direction, the number of particles in the orb and presence of the wireframe cube were all manipulated. The results suggest that participants could perceive the orb’s true rotation in the absence of the cube so long as it was made up of at least ten particles. The presence of the cube dominated perception as participants consistently perceived congruent motion of the orb and cube, even when they moved in objectively different directions. These findings are considered as they relate to prior research on motion perception, computational modelling of motion perception, structure from motion and 3D object perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1683-1697
Number of pages15
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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