Current understanding in locomotion research is that, for humans, navigating natural environments relies heavily on visual input; in contrast, walking on even ground in man-made obstacle and hazard-free environments is so highly automated that visual information derived from floor patterns should not affect locomotion and in particular have no impact on the direction of travel. The vision literature on motion perception would suggest otherwise; specifically that oblique floor patterns may induce substantial veering away from the intended direction of travel due to the so-called aperture problem. Here, we tested these contrasting predictions by letting participants walk over commonly encountered floor patterns (paving slabs) and investigating participants' ability to walk "straight ahead" for different pattern orientations. We show that, depending on pattern orientation, participants veered considerably over the measured travel distance (up to 8% across trials), in line with predictions derived from the literature on motion perception. We argue that these findings are important to the study of locomotion, and, if also observed in real world environments, might have implications for architectural design.
Leonards, U., Fennell, J. G., Oliva, G., Drake, A., & Redmill, D. W. (2015). Treacherous pavements: Paving slab patterns modify intended walking directions. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130034