A dissociation between judged causality and imagined locations in simple dynamic scenes.

Abstract

To mentally extrapolate the trajectory of a moving object that disappears from sight, different sources of information can be exploited: memory of its last visible position, its inferred movement through time, and general understanding of the causal structure of the scene. It is often assumed that these cues are integrated into unified analog mental representations. In our experiment, participants predicted the position of an object that disappeared behind an occluder and estimated the degree to which the movement was caused by another object. They made considerable errors in predicting imagined displacements. Moreover, their predictions were misaligned with their judgments of causality. They predicted the positions of the invisible moving objects better in events that they judged less causally correct than in events that they judged more causally correct. These results suggest that physical and cognitive parameters of imagined dynamic events do not merge into unitary mental models simulating actual states of the world.

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