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What Is Motion Parallax?

Updated on February 26, 2014
View from a train window
View from a train window | Source

Motion parallax is experienced “when you ride in a moving vehicle and look out the side window, the objects you see outside appear to be moving in the opposite direction and at different speeds; those closet to you appear to be moving faster than those in the distance” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd 93).

Monocular Depth Cue

The most fascinating aspect of this monocular depth cue is that only one eye perceives motion parallax. Whenever you are riding in a car and look out of the window at distant objects, like the moving clouds in the sky or an airplane flying, you perceive that the clouds or airplane are moving in the same direction you are.

Except they appear to be moving much slower than the vehicle you are in. The objects which are closer to your car appear to be moving faster in the opposite direction, such as the buildings you drive by. This perception is known as motion parallax.

A Part of Everyday Life

Depth perception is a very important function of our everyday lives. Life without depth perception would be incredibly difficult. Even a basic task like walking would pose some serious problems.

Depth perception can also depend on only one eye, known as monocular depth cues, or both eyes called binocular depth cues. Depth perception is indeed a very important and intriguing ability.


  • Wood, S., Wood, E., Boyd, D. (2002). Mastering the World of Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson.


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