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Stephen C. Mack, Miguel P. Eckstein; Object co-occurrence serves as a contextual cue to guide and facilitate visual search in a natural viewing environment. Journal of Vision 2011;11(9):9. doi: 10.1167/11.9.9.
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There is accumulating evidence that scene context can guide and facilitate visual search (e.g., A. Torralba, A. Oliva, M. S. Castelhano, & J. M. Henderson, 2006). Previous studies utilized stimuli of restricted size, a fixed head position, and context defined by the global spatial configuration of the scene. Thus, it is unknown whether similar effects generalize to natural viewing environments and to context defined by local object co-occurrence. Here, with a mobile eye tracker, we investigated the effects of object co-occurrence on search performance under naturalistic conditions. Observers searched for low-visibility target objects on tables cluttered with everyday objects. Targets were either located adjacent to larger, more visible “cue” objects that they regularly co-occurred in natural scenes (expected condition) or elsewhere in the display, surrounded by unrelated objects (unexpected condition). Mean search times were shorter for targets at expected locations as compared to unexpected locations. Additionally, context guided eye movements, as more fixations were directed toward cue objects than other non-target objects, particularly when the cue was contextually relevant to the current search target. These results could not be accounted for by image saliency models. Thus, we conclude that object co-occurrence can serve as a contextual cue to facilitate search and guide eye movements in natural environments.
Note: *p < 0.05.
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