Visual correlates of fixation selection: effects of scale and time

Benjamin W. Tatler, Roland J. Baddeley, Iain D. Gilchrist

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    594 Citations (Scopus)


    What distinguishes the locations that we fixate from those that we do not? To answer this question we recorded eye movements while observers viewed natural scenes, and recorded image characteristics centred at the locations that observers fixated. To investigate potential differences in the visual characteristics of fixated versus non-fixated locations, these images were transformed to make intensity, contrast, colour, and edge content explicit. Signal detection and information theoretic techniques were then used to compare fixated regions to those that were not. The presence of contrast and edge information was more strongly discriminatory than luminance or chromaticity. Fixated locations tended to be more distinctive in the high spatial frequencies. Extremes of low frequency luminance information were avoided. With prolonged viewing, consistency in fixation locations between observers decreased. In contrast to [Parkhurst, D. J., Law, K., & Niebur, E. (2002). Modeling the role of salience in the allocation of overt visual attention. Vision Research, 42 (1), 107–123] we found no change in the involvement of image features over time. We attribute this difference in our results to a systematic bias in their metric. We propose that saccade target selection involves an unchanging intermediate level representation of the scene but that the high-level interpretation of this representation changes over time.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)643-659
    Number of pages17
    JournalVision Research
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


    • Saccadic selection
    • Image features
    • Spatial scale
    • Time course
    • Intermediate representation


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