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Visual search habits and the spatial structure of scenes

Clarke, Alasdair and Nowakowska, Anna and Hunt, Amelia (2022) 'Visual search habits and the spatial structure of scenes.' Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, 84 (6). pp. 1874-1885. ISSN 0031-5117

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We compared eye movements during search tasks across three spatial configurations. Participants searched for a line segment oriented 45° to the right. Variation in the orientation of distractor line segments determines the extent to which this target would be visible in peripheral vision: a target among homogeneous distractors is highly visible, while a target among heterogeneous distractors requires central vision. When the search array is split into homogeneous and heterogeneous left and right halves, a large proportion of fixations are ``wasted'' on the homogeneous half, leading to slower search times. We compared this pattern to two new configurations. In the first, the array was split into upper and lower halves. During a passive viewing baseline condition, we observed biases to look both at the top half and also at the hetergeneous region first. Both of these biases were weaker during active search, despite the fact that the heterogeneous bias would have led to improvements in efficiency if it had been retained. In the second experiment, a ``jumbled'' search configuration was used in which patches of more and less heterogeneous line segments were scattered across the search space. This configuration allows for more natural, spatially distributed scanpaths. Participants were both more efficient overall, and less variable, relative to the left/right configuration. The results are consistent with the idea that visual search is associated with a distributed sequence of fixations, guided only loosely by the potential visibility of the target in different regions of the scene.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: · ·
Uncontrolled Keywords: visual search; optimal behaviour; eye movements
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2022 13:55
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2022 10:51

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