Vision scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, writing in the journal Neuron, say they've determined how the brain tracks fast-moving objects.
It takes 0.1 second for the brain to process what the eye sees, they said, and in that time a 120 mph tennis ball will have moved 15 feet closer.
It's only because our brains can make up for this delay that people aren't constantly being hit by balls, cars or other fast-moving objects, they said.
The brain predicts or "pushes" forward moving objects so we perceive them as further along in their trajectory than the eye can see, the researchers said.
"For the first time, we can see this sophisticated prediction mechanism at work in the human brain," psychology researcher Gerrit Maus said.
The findings suggest the middle temporal region of the visual cortex known as V5 is involved in computing where moving objects are most likely to end up.
"The image that hits the eye and then is processed by the brain is not in sync with the real world, but the brain is clever enough to compensate for that," Maus said. "What we perceive doesn't necessarily have that much to do with the real world, but it is what we need to know to interact with the real world."