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Katherine Humphrey, Geoffrey Underwood, Tony Lambert; Salience of the lambs: A test of the saliency map hypothesis with pictures of emotive objects. Journal of Vision 2012;12(1):22. doi: 10.1167/12.1.22.
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Humans have an ability to rapidly detect emotive stimuli. However, many emotional objects in a scene are also highly visually salient, which raises the question of how dependent the effects of emotionality are on visual saliency and whether the presence of an emotional object changes the power of a more visually salient object in attracting attention. Participants were shown a set of positive, negative, and neutral pictures and completed recall and recognition memory tests. Eye movement data revealed that visual saliency does influence eye movements, but the effect is reliably reduced when an emotional object is present. Pictures containing negative objects were recognized more accurately and recalled in greater detail, and participants fixated more on negative objects than positive or neutral ones. Initial fixations were more likely to be on emotional objects than more visually salient neutral ones, suggesting that the processing of emotional features occurs at a very early stage of perception.
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