Attention in natural scenes: contrast affects rapid visual processing and fixations alike

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Bernard M 't HartWolfgang Einhäuser


For natural scenes, attention is frequently quantified either by performance during rapid presentation or by gaze allocation during prolonged viewing. Both paradigms operate on different time scales, and tap into covert and overt attention, respectively. To compare these, we ask some observers to detect targets (animals/vehicles) in rapid sequences, and others to freely view the same target images for 3 s, while their gaze is tracked. In some stimuli, the target's contrast is modified (increased/decreased) and its background modified either in the same or in the opposite way. We find that increasing target contrast relative to the background increases fixations and detection alike, whereas decreasing target contrast and simultaneously increasing background contrast has little effect. Contrast increase for the whole image (target + background) improves detection, decrease worsens detection, whereas fixation probability remains unaffected by whole-image modifications. Object-unrelated local increase or decrease of contrast attracts gaze, but less than actual objects, supporting a precedence of objects over low-level features. Detection and fixation probability are correlated: the more likely a target is detected in one paradigm, ...Continue Reading


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Related Concepts

Mental Concentration
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Fixation, Ocular
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