Christian Valuch, Stefanie I Becker, and Ulrich Ansorge (2013)

Priming of fixations during recognition of natural scenes.

Journal of Vision, 13(3).

Eye fixations allow the human viewer to perceive scene content with high acuity. If fixations drive visual memory for scenes, a viewer might repeat his/her previous fixation pattern during recognition of a familiar scene. However, visual salience alone could account for similarities between two successive fixation patterns by attracting the eyes in a stimulus-driven, task-independent manner. In the present study, we tested whether the viewer’s aim to recognize a scene fosters fixations on scene content that repeats from learning to recognition as compared to the influence of visual salience alone. In Experiment 1 we compared the gaze behavior in a recognition task to that in a free-viewing task. By showing the same stimuli in both tasks, the task-independent influence of salience was held constant. We found that during a recognition task, but not during (repeated) free viewing, viewers showed a pronounced preference for previously fixated scene content. In Experiment 2 we tested whether participants remembered visual input that they fixated during learning better than salient but nonfixated visual input. To that end we presented participants with smaller cutouts from learned and new scenes. We found that cutouts featuring scene content fixated during encoding were recognized better and faster than cutouts featuring nonfixated but highly salient scene content from learned scenes. Both experiments supported the hypothesis that fixations during encoding and maybe during recognition serve visual memory over and above a stimulus-driven influence of visual salience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Sponsor: Australian Research Council, APD, Australia. Grant: DP110100588. Recipients: Becker, Stefanie I.