Searching in the dark: Cognitive relevance drives attention in real-world scenes

John M. Henderson, George L. Malcolm, Charles Schandl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

132 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We investigated whether the deployment of attention in scenes is better explained by visual salience or by cognitive relevance. In two experiments, participants searched for target objects in scene photographs. The objects appeared in semantically appropriate locations but were not visually salient within their scenes. Search was fast and efficient, with participants much more likely to look to the targets than to the salient regions. This difference was apparent from the first fixation and held regardless of whether participants were familiar with the visual form of the search targets. In the majority of trials, salient regions were not fixated. The critical effects were observed for all 24 participants across the two experiments. We outline a cognitive relevance framework to account for the control of attention and fixation in scenes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-856
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Volume16
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

Keywords

  • EYE-MOVEMENTS
  • VISUAL-SEARCH
  • GUIDANCE
  • PRIORITIZATION
  • PERCEPTION
  • SALIENCE
  • OBJECTS
  • MEMORY
  • SHIFTS
  • OVERT

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