April 16, 2024

If you’ve wondered why your partner always beats you at tennis or one kid always crushes the other at Fortnite, it seems there’s more to it than pure physical ability.

Some people are effectively able to see more “images per second” than others, research suggests, meaning they are naturally better at detecting or tracking fast-moving objects like tennis balls.

The rate at which our brain can distinguish between different visual signals is known as temporal resolution, and affects the speed at which we are able to respond to changes in our environment.

Previous studies have suggested that animals with high visual temporal resolution tend to be species with fast lives, such as predators. Human research has also suggested that this trait tends to decline as we age, temporarily dropping after intense exercise. However, it was not clear how much this varied between people of similar ages.

One way to measure this property is to identify the point at which someone stops seeing a flashing light as flashing, and sees it instead as a constant or stationary light. Clinton Haarlem, a PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin, and his colleagues tested this in 80 men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, and found large differences in the threshold at which this happened.

The research, published in Plos Onefound that some people reported a light source as constant when in fact it was flashing about 35 times per second, while others could still detect flashes at a rate of more than 60 times per second.

This is still some way short of the temporal resolution of peregrine falcons, which are capable of processing around 100 visual frames per second.

Haarlem said, “We think that people who see blinks at higher rates basically have access to a little more visual information per time frame than people at the lower end of the spectrum.”

Prof Kevin Mitchell, a neurobiologist at Trinity College Dublin who oversaw the research, said: “Because we only have access to our own subjective experience, we can naively expect that everyone else sees the world in the same way that we do. This study characterizes one such difference. It seems that some people really see the world faster than others.”

The study also found that visual temporal resolution appeared to be fairly stable over time within individuals, and that there was little difference between men and women.

Although it is not yet clear how such variation might affect our daily lives, Haarlem suspects that elite athletes and professional gamers may have a higher than average visual temporal resolution.

“We believe that individual differences in perceptual speed may become apparent in high-speed situations where one may have to track or track fast-moving objects, such as in ball sports, or in situations where visual scenes change rapidly, such as in competitive games. ,” he said.

“They can have an advantage over others before they’ve even picked up a racket and hit a tennis ball, or grabbed a controller and jumped into a fantasy world online.”

One outstanding question is the extent to which this trait is trainable. While people’s reaction speed can improve with practice, it is thought to be related to how long it takes them to react to something after their brain perceives it visually.

Haarlem said: “It’s more like the information that came in at the beginning.

“At this stage, we don’t really know much about where this variation comes from, and what it is related to. It could be related to our eyes, or it could be related to the brain filtering out information.”

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