Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Humans' critical ability to throw long distances aided by an illusion, study finds

Date:
January 24, 2011
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
New research shows how humans, unlike any other species on Earth, readily learn to throw long distances. This research also suggests that this unique evolutionary trait is entangled with language development in a way critical to our very existence. Findings suggest the size-weight illusion is more than just curious or interesting, but a necessary precursor to humans' ability to learn to throw -- and to throw far.

New research suggests that humans' ability to learn to throw long distances is entangled with language development in a way critical to our very existence.
Credit: iStockphoto/Joseph Helfenberger

Can't help molding some snow into a ball and hurling it or tossing a stone as far into a lake as you can? New research from Indiana University and the University of Wyoming shows how humans, unlike any other species on Earth, readily learn to throw long distances. This research also suggests that this unique evolutionary trait is entangled with language development in a way critical to our very existence.

Related Articles


The study, appearing online Jan. 14 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, suggests that the well-established size-weight illusion, where a person who is holding two objects of equal weight will consider the larger object to be much lighter, is more than just curious or interesting, but a necessary precursor to humans' ability to learn to throw -- and to throw far.

Just as young children unknowingly experience certain perceptual auditory biases that help prepare them for language development, the researchers assert that the size-weight illusion primes children to learn to throw. It unwittingly gives them an edge -- helping them choose an object of size and weight most effective for throwing.

"These days we celebrate our unique throwing abilities on the football or baseball field or basketball court, but these abilities are a large part of what made us successful as a species," said Geoffrey Bingham, professor in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "It was not just language. It was language and throwing that led to the survival of Homo sapiens, and we are now beginning to gain some understanding of how these abilities are rapidly acquired by members of our species."

Why is throwing so important from an evolutionary standpoint? Bingham said Homo sapiens has been so successful as a species because of three factors: Social organization and cooperation, language, which helps with the former factor, and the ability to throw long distance. This trio allowed Homo sapiens to "take down all the potential competition," Bingham said. It brought us through the ice ages because Homo sapiens could hunt the only major food sources available, big game such as mammoths and giant sloths.

Bingham and Qin Zhu, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, consider throwing and language in concert, because both require extremely well-coordinated timing and motor skills, which are facilitated by two uniquely developed brain structures -- the cerebellum and posterior parietal cortex.

"The idea here is that our speech and throwing capabilities came as a package," said Bingham, director of the Perception/Action Lab at IU. Language is special, and we acquire it very rapidly when young. Recent theories and evidence suggest that perceptual biases in auditory perception channel auditory development, so that we become attuned to the relevant acoustic units for speech. Our work on the size-weight illusion is now suggesting that a similar bias exists in object perception that corresponds to human readiness to acquire throwing skills."

Bingham and Zhu, who completed his doctorate in the Department of Kinesiology at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, put their theory to the test, recruiting 12 adult men and women to perform various tests related to perception, the size-weight illusion and throwing prowess.

Another way of stating the size-weight illusion is that for someone to perceive that two objects -- one larger than the other -- weigh the same, the larger object must weigh significantly more than the smaller object. Their study findings show that skilled throwers use this illusion of 'equal felt' heaviness to select objects that they are able to throw to the farthest, maximum distance. This, says Bingham, suggests the phenomenon is not actually an illusion but instead a "highly useful and accurate perception."

Neanderthals, which co-existed with Homo sapiens long ago, lacked the more developed cerebellum and posterior parietal cortex.

"These brain structures have recently been found to distinguish Homo sapiens from Neanderthals," Bingham said. "It is possible that this is what enabled us to beat out Neanderthals, who otherwise had the larger brains."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Qin Zhu, Geoffrey P. Bingham. Human readiness to throw: the size–weight illusion is not an illusion when picking the best objects to throw. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.11.005

Cite This Page:

Indiana University. "Humans' critical ability to throw long distances aided by an illusion, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110124073910.htm>.
Indiana University. (2011, January 24). Humans' critical ability to throw long distances aided by an illusion, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110124073910.htm
Indiana University. "Humans' critical ability to throw long distances aided by an illusion, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110124073910.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins