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Daniel Smilek, Tessa van Leeuwen, Elina Birmingham, Maryam Toufaniasl, Alan Kingstone; Exploring visual scenes: A cognitive ethology approach. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):77. doi: 10.1167/5.8.77.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In a series of experiments we examined the subjective experience of controlling (or not controlling) the exploration of different visual scenes. The content of each scene (32.5 cm X 24.5 cm) could only be perceived through a window that revealed a subsection of the underlying picture. The window could be small (1.5 cm X 1.5 cm) and provide the highest resolution view of the picture (1024 pixels X 768 pixels); the window could be medium-size (4.5 cm X 4.5 cm) with a view of a lower resolution, more blocky image (original image coarse quantized to 16 pixels/ block); or the window could be large (9.0 cm X 9.0 cm) but with the poorest resolution (original image coarse quantized to 64 pixels/block). Participants in an “active group” controlled both the sizing and positioning of the window. They could explore a picture for as long as they liked or for only 15 seconds. Participants in a “passive group” were yoked to members in the active group, so that passive participants could only see the picture through the window that their matched active member was controlling.
All participants were required to write a description of the picture following their exploration of each scene. After seeing all the scenes they rated on a 9-point scale: (1) how much information could be extracted from the pictures, (2) whether the viewing time was adequate, and (3) whether the movement and sizing of the window were systematic. The results showed that ratings of information extraction and viewing time were equivalent across the active and passive groups. In contrast, active participants rated the window sizing and movement as being significantly more systematic than passive participants. Together our data indicate that control and information extraction are separable in visual exploration, with control enhancing perceived systematicity but not information extraction.
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