Rapid detection of person information in a naturalistic scene.

Sue Fletcher-Watson, John Findlay, Sue Leekam, Valerie Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A preferential-looking paradigm was used to investigate how gaze is distributed in naturalistic scenes. Two scenes were presented side by side: one contained a single person (person-present) and one did not (person-absent). Eye movements were recorded, the principal measures being the time spent looking at each region of the scenes, and the latency and location of the first fixation within each trial. We studied gaze patterns during free viewing, and also in a task requiring gender discrimination of the human figure depicted. Results indicated a strong bias towards looking to the person-present scene. This bias was present on the first fixation after image presentation, confirming previous findings of ultra-rapid processing of complex information. Faces attracted disproportionately many fixations, the preference emerging in the first fixation and becoming stronger in the following ones. These biases were exaggerated in the gender-discrimination task. A tendency to look at the object being fixated by the person in the scene was shown to be strongest at a slightly later point in the gaze sequence. We conclude that human bodies and faces are subject to special perceptual processing when presented as part of a naturalistic scene.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-583
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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