On the visual span during object search in real-world scenes

A. Nuthmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study investigated from how large a region around their current point of gaze viewers can take in information when searching for objects in real-world scenes. Visual span size was estimated using the gaze-contingent moving window paradigm. Experiment 1 featured window radii measuring 1, 3, 4, 4.7, 5.4, and 6.1°. Experiment 2 featured six window radii measuring between 5 and 10°. Each scene occupied a 24.8 × 18.6° field of view. Inside the moving window, the scene was presented in high resolution. Outside the window, the scene image was low-pass filtered to impede the parsing of the scene into constituent objects. Visual span was defined as the window size at which object search times became indistinguishable from search times in the no-window control condition; this occurred with windows measuring 8° and larger. Notably, as long as central vision was fully available (window radii ≥ 5°), the distance traversed by the eyes through the scene to the search target was comparable to baseline performance. However, to move their eyes to the target, viewers made shorter saccades, requiring more fixations to cover the same image space, and thus more time. Moreover, a gaze-data based decomposition of search time revealed disruptions in specific subprocesses of search. In addition, nonlinear mixed models analyses demonstrated reliable individual differences in visual span size and parameters of the search time function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-837
Number of pages35
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


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