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Wilson S. Geisler, Jeffrey S. Perry, Jiri Najemnik; Visual search: The role of peripheral information measured using gaze-contingent displays. Journal of Vision 2006;6(9):1. doi: 10.1167/6.9.1.
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Two of the factors limiting progress in understanding the mechanisms of visual search are the difficulty of controlling and manipulating the retinal stimulus when the eyes are free to move and the lack of an ideal observer theory for fixation selection during search. Recently, we developed a method to precisely control retinal stimulation with gaze-contingent displays (J. S. Perry & W. S. Geisler, 2002), and we derived a theory of optimal eye movements in visual search (J. Najemnik & W. S. Geisler, 2005). Here, we report a parametric study of visual search for sine-wave targets added to spatial noise backgrounds that have spectral characteristics similar to natural images (the amplitude spectrum of the noise falls inversely with spatial frequency). Search time, search accuracy, and eye fixations were measured as a function of target spatial frequency, 1/f noise contrast, and the resolution falloff of the display from the point of fixation. The results are systematic and similar for the two observers. We find that many aspects of search performance and eye movement pattern are similar to those of an ideal searcher that has the same falloff in resolution with retinal eccentricity as the human visual system.
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