FPS and your eyes: Some people can process visual information faster than others

Shawn Knight

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In brief: Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have determined that visual perception in humans – that is, how many "images per second" we can process – varies greatly from person to person. It could explain why, disregarding physical traits, one individual thrives in high-paced activities while another falters.

The researchers devised an experiment involving a flickering light to gauge individual ability. The test involved 80 men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, and measured the point at which the light no longer flickered and appeared as a constant.

Results showed that while some people could no longer detect flickering at 35 flashes per second, others could still detect flickering at more than 60 times per second. For comparison, some predatory birds such as the peregrine falcon can process at up to 100 visual frames per second.

Clinton Haarlem, a PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin, said they believe folks that can see flickering at higher rates have access to a little more visual information per timeframe than people on the lower end of the spectrum.

Professor Kevin Mitchell, a neurobiologist who supervised the research, noted that because we only have access to our own subjective experience, we naively expect that everyone else perceives the world in the same way we do.

"This study characterizes one such difference," Mitchell said, adding that some people really do see the world faster than others.

Data further revealed little difference between visual temporal resolution of men and women, and that ability seemed stable over time within individuals. Previous research had indicated that the trait does diminish with age, and that it dips temporarily following an intense workout.

It's unclear how visual perception speed impacts day to day life, but it's easy to see how it would give pro athletes or even competitive gamers a leg up on "slower" competition. We also don't yet know the extent to which the trait is trainable. Does practice make perfect, or is this more a thing that you're either born with or you aren't?

The team's results have been published in the journal Plos One.

Image credit: Chris Peeters, Yan Krukau

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It's a small sample, but still fascinating! Would be interesting to see if this affects people's preferences for high refresh monitors.
 
Is it trainable? It's just like actually being fast. You can teach a fast person to run a little faster but you can't just teach speed to someone that isn't naturally fast.
 
That's probably part of the reason why I excelled at batting for playing baseball. Watch the ball leave the pitcher's hand and be able to see how it's spinning to help determine what kind of pitch you were going up against when it's traveling upwards of 90+ mph in about a 61ft distance from the pitcher to the catcher. I'm sure this was a mix of natural ability and lots of practice. Some guys I played with couldn't tell a fast ball from a curve or slider, they just swung and hoped they'd make contact.

After I stopped playing baseball and having been at least 1 full year of not having swung at a pitch, I was bored and went to the local batting cages. I stepped into the fast pitch (throwing roughly 85-90mph) and those pitches zipped by me so fast that I was behind on my swings. It felt comical with how slow I was with my swing. I had to step into the medium speed (roughly 65-70mph) and practice hitting there before I started getting back into it. Went back to the fast speed machine and started making contact.

But that was years ago. I probably couldn't spot the difference anymore for a couple of reason:
1) age - it's been 25 years since I played
2) very much out of practice
I don't know if I'd even feel comfortable standing at the plate with someone humming pitches down it 90+mph anymore.

As for FPS, it's never bothered me. I played around 30-45fps for many years (due to hardware limitations) on my PC and I never cared. I can clearly tell the difference between 30 and 60fps when changing between them, but anything over 60fps and I don't think I'd notice.

I guess it could depend not just on a person-by-person basis, but also what they are doing and how it impacts them.
 
I can very easily see the difference between 60, 120 and 240 fps.

Smoothness is king. If I had more than 240 Hz I would aim for more than ~200 fps.
 
So when some people are more likely to buy into the old misconception of "people can only see 24 (or 30) fps anyway, that's why they make the movies like that, no point in having more than 30 for games", maybe they're not just ignorant, but actually have slower eyes/visual processing.
 
So when some people are more likely to buy into the old misconception of "people can only see 24 (or 30) fps anyway, that's why they make the movies like that, no point in having more than 30 for games", maybe they're not just ignorant, but actually have slower eyes/visual processing.

That begs the question if modern life means we sped up our processing.
Given that it was also known if you say watch a movie out of the corner of your eyes you could see the flicker, where the eye is more sensitive to light changes.

Also at a subconscious level we probably do see that it's 24 fps , but our brain smooths it out to appear frameless so to speak.
I commented about this study a few days earlier in reply to someone's comment on 240Hz monitor review- that there is a variance for people - like I know I have good acuity and night vision , but less colour vision.

I also wonder if there is a correlation to reaction time as well , more than just seeing it earlier
Ie not only do F! drivers see "quicker" they react faster.

Just saw a good video on gamers nexus wrt to encoding videos
One of the first comment was that humans are very perceptive of luminance changes - so changes to brightness

So this makes sense for movies to run a 24 fps and lighting is very even and balanced for long periods
yet in Computer games like first person shooters luminance can change quite quickly , muzzle blasts etc.
TBF we also need frame rate on a game depended on type I
 
So when some people are more likely to buy into the old misconception of "people can only see 24 (or 30) fps anyway, that's why they make the movies like that, no point in having more than 30 for games", maybe they're not just ignorant, but actually have slower eyes/visual processing.
No, they just haven't been introduced to high refresh rate and FPS. I thought 60 FPS was buttery smooth before. Now, I can see a difference between 60 and 90 FPS on 170Hz display. After around 120 FPS/Hz I can't really tell above. Maybe on 240Hz display.

I admire people who are on 1080p@60Hz and don't want/need/care for more.
 
No, they just haven't been introduced to high refresh rate and FPS. I thought 60 FPS was buttery smooth before. Now, I can see a difference between 60 and 90 FPS on 170Hz display. After around 120 FPS/Hz I can't really tell above. Maybe on 240Hz display.

I admire people who are on 1080p@60Hz and don't want/need/care for more.

I don't admire the people who stick with 30 fps though, that's just wrong :D
 
I can very easily see the difference between 60, 120 and 240 fps.
And I'd bet any sum you name that, in an actual double-blind test between 120 and 240 fps, you couldn't spot the difference. As for these 350+ Hz monitors, the less said the better.
 
I can very easily see the difference between 60, 120 and 240 fps.

Smoothness is king. If I had more than 240 Hz I would aim for more than ~200 fps.
so what, I can easily see the difference between 60 FPS and 61 FPS!...

it's the "1" after the 6 on my screen FPS app. At 60 FPS it only displays "60".
 
It would be interesting to develop a test system, either at an eye doctors office or, eventually, on VR, to test all these stats everyone here is bringing up (flickering, smoothness, luminance changes, color difference, distance, reaction time, etc). We could see how we compare to the average so we can understand how we uniquely perceive the world, and why others see it different. Maybe we can also figure out which can be improved upon, then start to incorporate "exercises" into video games.

One other thought: the test that this article is based on is a "flickering" test. I bet our "detect flickering" speed is different (and probably slower) than our "detect smoothness on our computer monitor" speed. Thus we should not limit ourselves to thinking that we should pick a FPS model based only on our "detect flickering" speed.
 
I have known this for years.
I used to play Wolf ET every day and also competitively in tournaments etc. I would go from one area to another in a map, and frequently see that part of the map as if it were empty and then be populated by the players, milliseconds later. It gave me quite the advantage. My senses were so heightened it seemed like a long time before players appeared.
Had other incidents in real life, before and after that, where time appears to slow down, like when involved in a cycling accident. As I knew I was about to go down, I had it planned in my head, how I would drop the bike, so as to damage it as little as possible. At the same time I planned where I was going to land and that I would roll just 'there' to minimize damage to myself.
Fell down the stair once too and did a similar thing, avoiding a glass door at the bottom and carrying an empty pint glass in my hand. Neither was broken at the bottom due to my planning of how to fall and do things.
It literally feels like a super power when it happens, or something akin to that game F.E.A.R. when you hit the slow-mo button.
I've always said with the high hz monitors. It's not what the eye can see, it's how fast the brain processes the image. The eye captures it all.
 
And I'd bet any sum you name that, in an actual double-blind test between 120 and 240 fps, you couldn't spot the difference. As for these 350+ Hz monitors, the less said the better.
You simply has no experience with high fps gaming haha.

I can tell you the difference within seconds in a blind test. 120 vs 240 is clear as day.

I have 1440p 360 Hz and I can even spot the difference between 240 and 360 fps without a problem.

I can even tell you the difference while scrolling on a web site. Very obvious.

If you can't, your brain just can't process fast enough ;) Tons of people can easily see the difference.

Are you one of those people that think 30 fps is plenty?
 
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This is actually a given fact that most of us probably already knew.

But what will be more interesting is how to learn to notice things moving fast to slow down time enough for us to react to the movement.
 
While I love gaming, I have to admit I'm quite likely in the slower group. But then again until recently all my monitors were 60hz. And as far as I could tell my gaming performance didn't suffer too much. Well I should say until I crossed the 50 years old threshold that is.

But I have a theory about why it seems to be that our performance/experience isn't really a static one. Our bodies, brains, nerves, input-output systems are like a computer's hardware. There's a hard limit on hardware performance that's purely genetically based. But our mind which is a level higher is more like an OS, it can alter how it uses the hardware to adapt to current conditions and needs. It can "tune" itself...

I noticed this because I love music and invest in high end gear. I've never understood people who could tolerate "bad" sounding systems. Ever hear the theory that speakers need to "break in"? Total rubbish, because if it was true speakers would also breakdown with time. Which if you've ever listened to a classic speaker that was treated properly, it'll sound as good today as it did 30-50 years ago.

So what really happens that gives listeners this idea of speaker break-in? Well I have a high end sound bar that I use with one HDTV. It has a night time setting that really restricts the sound, and when I first switch to it I hate it because it's weak and almost tinny. But after 15-30 minutes it sounds fine, and when I switch back to surround I only notice a slight difference. My mind can act as a equalizer and "tune" the sound to get the most information it can get. IMHO it's way some people can tolerate poor sound systems, or don't notice slight hearing loss. Our minds compensate.

So why not have similar tuning with our vision system? I don't envision it being nearly as quick to adapt as our hearing because hearing was a much more important survival trait as we evolved. But I can see some people having better adaption to perceived frame rates. Their mind has simply tuned itself to extract more visual information. Of course each person will still bump up to a hardware limitation, but I'm confident that there is some visual tuning going on as well.
 
This is "framerate" instead of "resolution." It has not previously been established the rate at which visual information is processed. This is DIFFERENT from clarity.
You missed the point. The point was/is vision varies from person to person. Framerate, distance, whatever...it's not remarkable it's normal
 
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