Do Smaller Species See in Slow Motion?

A few years ago I was playing about with the slow motion feature on my camcorder and had a bit of fun speculating about why we don’t see in slow motion. I wondered why flies seem to respond so quickly to stimuli in the environment. Little did I know that a few years later researchers would look at this question in more detail and find some very interesting correlations.

The researchers have recently published this study in the Journal of Animal Behaviour. They hypothesised that species with a higher basal metabolic rate would have more energy to invest in the high resource activity of high resolution motion processing. They also hypothesised that larger species, being less manoeuvrable would have less need for high resolution motion processing with the converse being true for smaller species.

The research group then looked at basal metabolic rate data for several species (although there were a few adjustments explained in the paper).


In the graphs above, the researchers have plotted critical flicker fusion frequency (CFF) against Body Mass and Basal Metabolic Rate respectively. Critical flicker fusion frequency is the lowest frequency at which a flashing light source is perceived as constant.

The researchers found the correlation they expected in the graphs above. Correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation but it certainly does provide some strong evidence in support of their hypotheses. So flies may be able to visually process the world much more quickly than we are. Could this apply to humans during development?

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