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Individual differences in visual salience vary along semantic dimensions

De Haas, B; Iakovidis, AL; Schwarzkopf, DS; Gegenfurtner, KR; (2019) Individual differences in visual salience vary along semantic dimensions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 116 (24) pp. 11687-11692. 10.1073/pnas.1820553116. Green open access

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Abstract

What determines where we look? Theories of attentional guidance hold that image features and task demands govern fixation behavior, while differences between observers are interpreted as a “noise-ceiling” that strictly limits predictability of fixations. However, recent twin studies suggest a genetic basis of gaze-trace similarity for a given stimulus. This leads to the question of how individuals differ in their gaze behavior and what may explain these differences. Here, we investigated the fixations of >100 human adults freely viewing a large set of complex scenes containing thousands of semantically annotated objects. We found systematic individual differences in fixation frequencies along six semantic stimulus dimensions. These differences were large (>twofold) and highly stable across images and time. Surprisingly, they also held for first fixations directed toward each image, commonly interpreted as “bottom-up” visual salience. Their perceptual relevance was documented by a correlation between individual face salience and face recognition skills. The set of reliable individual salience dimensions and their covariance pattern replicated across samples from three different countries, suggesting they reflect fundamental biological mechanisms of attention. Our findings show stable individual differences in salience along a set of fundamental semantic dimensions and that these differences have meaningful perceptual implications. Visual salience reflects features of the observer as well as the image.

Type: Article
Title: Individual differences in visual salience vary along semantic dimensions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1820553116
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1820553116
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Keywords: visual salience, individual differences, eye movements
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10083134
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