Sensorimotor adaptation and cue reweighing compensate for distorted 3D shape information, accounting for paradoxical perception-action dissociations
Visually guided movements can show surprising accuracy even when the perceived three-dimensional (3D) shape of the target is distorted. One explanation of this paradox is that an evolutionarily specialized “vision-for-action” system provides accurate shape estimates by relying selectively on stereo information and ignoring less reliable sources of shape information like texture and shading. However, the key support for this hypothesis has come from studies that analyze average behavior across many visuomotor interactions where available sensory feedback reinforces stereo information. The present study, which carefully accounts for the effects of feedback, shows that visuomotor interactions with slanted surfaces are actually planned using the same cue-combination function as slant perception and that apparent dissociations can arise due to two distinct supervised learning processes: sensorimotor adaptation and cue reweighting. In two experiments, we show that when a distorted slant cue biases perception (e.g., surfaces appear flattened by a fixed amount), sensorimotor adaptation rapidly adjusts the planned grip orientation to compensate for this constant error. However, when the distorted slant cue is unreliable, leading to variable errors across a set of objects (i.e., some slants are overestimated, others underestimated), then relative cue weights are gradually adjusted to reduce the misleading effect of the unreliable cue, consistent with previous perceptual studies of cue reweighting. The speed and flexibility of these two forms of learning provide an alternative explanation of why perception and action are sometimes found to be dissociated in experiments where some 3D shape cues are consistent with sensory feedback while others are faulty.