Bill Warren takes an ecological approach to problems of perception and action, which asks: how much of the organization in behavior can be explained "for free" on the basis of informational and physical constraints in natural environments? His research focuses on the visual control of locomotion and navigation, combining experiments in a large-scale virtual environment (the VENLab) with dynamic systems modeling.


One project studies the visual guidance of locomotor behaviors such as steering, obstacle avoidance, and target interception. His group has developed dynamic models of each behavior, which are combined to predict paths through complex environments. The visual information used to guide each behavior, such as optic flow, is alsomapped out. This work leads to models of "virtual humans" and crowd behavior, and has applications to robotics and computer animation.


A second project extends such principles to longer-range navigation, including path integration, visual landmarks, and the geometry of spatial knowledge. The hypothesis is that successful navigation canbe explained by a combination of abilities that are weaker than a metric "cognitive map."


Finally, Dr. Warren studies how physical constraints are exploited to organize behavior in such tasks as infants learning to bounce in a "jolly jumper," and adults learning to bounce a ball on a racquet. His ultimate aim is a dynamic theory of perception and action

Warren, W. H., Kay, B. A., Duchon, A. P, Zosh, W., & Sahuc, S. (2001). Optic flow is used to control human walking. Nature Neuroscience, 4, 213-216.


Fajen, B. R.,& Warren, W. H. (2003). Behavioral dynamics of steering, obstacle avoidance, and route selection. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 343-362.

Warren, W. H. (2004). Optic flow. in L. Chalupa & J. Werner (Eds.), The Visual Neurosciences (pp. 1247-1259). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Foo, P., Warren, W. H., Duchon, A. P., & Tarr, M. J. (2005). Do humans integrate routes into a cognitive map? Map vs. landmark-based navigation of novel shortcuts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Memory and Learning, 31, 195-215.