Motion Parallax in Psychology: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Depth Perception
  • 0:41 What Is Motion Parallax?
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Expert Contributor
Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Motion parallax is a monocular depth cue in which we view objects that are closer to us as moving faster than objects that are further away from us. Learn about motion parallax, depth perception, monocular cues, and more.

Depth Perception

Look at this image (see video). What do you see? Most people would interpret the figure in the image as a box or a cube. A box, just like a cube, has three different dimensions: length, width and height. There is something about the way in which the figure is drawn that allows you to to perceive all three dimensions, even though it is drawn on a flat screen which only has two dimensions.

It is due to our ability of depth perception, which is the ability to use visual cues in order to perceive the distance or 3-dimensional characteristics of an object.

What Is Motion Parallax?

Motion parallax is a type of depth perception cue in which objects that are closer appear to move faster than objects that are further. It's a type of monocular cue, a depth perception cue that can be perceived through the use of one eye. This is opposed to binocular cues, which are depth perception cues that can only be perceived through the use of both eyes.

Motion parallax occurs when objects that are at different distances from us appear to move at rates that are different while we are moving. We judge an object's distance based on how quickly an object moves. The closer an object is to us, the quicker it appears to move. The further an object is from us, the slower it appears to move.

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Additional Activities

Motion Parallax Journal

This activity will encourage students to focus on finding examples of motion parallax in their everyday lives.


  • After reviewing the video lesson, conduct a brief discussion of other times when students might notice motion parallax. Some examples are:
    • Planes flying in the sky at different distances from the viewer.
    • In movies.
  • Explain to students that they will familiarize themselves with the concept of motion parallax through experiencing it themselves.
  • Instruct students to keep a Motion Parallax journal for a set amount of time (up to 1 week if possible). They should document:
    • The date/time of the incident of motion parallax.
    • The objects involved in the experience.
    • The environment in which the incident occurred.
    • A summary of how they noticed it and what they felt/thought upon noticing the motion parallax.
  • After the observation stage of the activity, encourage students to review their journals to determine if they can see any patterns in when motion parallax was most obvious. Some patterns to examine are:
    • Morning
    • Evening/sunset
    • While moving (as in the car or a bus)
    • When standing still but viewing moving objects


  • Instruct students to write a brief essay (length to be determined by the students' skill level) detailing their experience with motion parallax in their own lives. Students should include information on any patterns they found in their own motion parallax observations.

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