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Gregor Hardiess, Sabine Gillner, Hanspeter A. Mallot; Head and eye movements and the role of memory limitations in a visual search paradigm. Journal of Vision 2008;8(1):7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.1.7.
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The image information guiding visual behavior is acquired and maintained in an interplay of gaze shifts and visual short-term memory (VSTM). If storage capacity of VSTM is exhausted, gaze shifts can be used to regain information not currently represented in memory. By varying the separation between relevant image regions, S. Inamdar and M. Pomplun (2003) demonstrated a trade-off between VSTM storage and gaze shifts, which were performed as pure eye movements, that is, without a head movement component. Here we extend this paradigm to larger gaze shifts involving both eye and head movements. We use a comparative visual search paradigm with two relevant image regions and region separation as independent variable. Image regions were defined by two cupboards displaying colored geometrical objects in roughly equal arrangements. Subjects were asked to find differences in the arrangement of the objects in the two cupboards. Cupboard separation was varied between 30° and 120°. Images were presented with two projectors on a 150° × 70° curved screen. Head and eye movements were simultaneously recorded with an ART head tracker and an ASL mobile eye tracker, respectively. In the large separation conditions, the number of gaze shifts between the two cupboards was reduced, while fixation duration increased. Furthermore, the head movement proportions negatively correlated with the number of gaze shifts and positively correlated with fixation duration. We conclude that the visual system uses increased VSTM involvement to avoid gaze movements and in particular movements of the head. Scan path analysis revealed two subject-specific strategies (encode left, compare right, and vice versa), which were consistently used in all separation conditions.
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