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Janet Hsiao, Garrison Cottrell; The influence of number of eye fixations on face recognition. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):494. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/7.9.494.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Researchers have shown that eye movements during visual perception are linked to the underlying cognitive processes. In face recognition, it has been reported that we have one or more preferred fixations and a tendency to use a regular sequence of eye movements for specific tasks (e.g., Walker-Smith, Gale, & Findlay, 1977). In the current study, we conduct a face recognition experiment to examine the influence of number of fixations in face recognition. Participants were presented with face images at the study phase and asked to recognize the same faces at the test phase. We restricted the number of fixations on the face image randomly at the test phase to one, two, three, and no restriction (i.e. free viewing). We show that participants are able to recall the faces with just a single fixation, and they have better performance when two fixations are allowed. Nevertheless, there is no further improvement with more than two fixations. It may suggest that we only need two fixations to recognize a face. We also show that, when comparing the fixations that participants made during the study and test phases, participants have a significant tendency to scan the face from left to the right and this tendency is consistent across the study and the test phases. Nevertheless, the fixations made during the study phase are significantly more divergent in both location and duration than those during the test phase. The results suggest that different eye movement strategies are used for the study and the test phases, and the first two fixations in face recognition may have a functional role in retrieving informative facial information.
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