September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Social features impact visual exploration of naturalistic scenes
Author Affiliations
  • Xavier Morin-Duchesne
    Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University
  • Dan Kennedy
    Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 1224. doi:
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      Xavier Morin-Duchesne, Dan Kennedy; Social features impact visual exploration of naturalistic scenes. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1224. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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The allocation of attention to social stimuli is critical for human social behaviors such as identity recognition, emotion recognition, and joint attention. The importance of social stimuli themselves is further exemplified by our expertise with human faces (Diamond & Carey, 1986) and precision in interpreting gaze cues (Symons et al., 2004). Here, we aim to characterize the impact of socially-relevant information (faces, gaze direction, and targets of gaze) on the visual exploration of naturalistic scenes. Fifteen undergraduate students free-viewed 700 images of naturalistic scenes for 3 seconds each, while their eye movements were recorded. Multiple regions of interest (ROIs), including faces, objects, and targets of gaze, were defined within each of the 700 images (Xu et al., 2014). Among the 356 images with at least one face, we examined the ability of social features and cues to attract, hold, or drive away attention. Our results show that faces and targets of gaze are significantly likelier to be fixated than would be expected from their proportion (e.g., number of faces relative to total number of ROIs), area, and saliency alone (between 1.5 to 9 times likelier), showing that both attract attention. Furthermore, when viewing both faces and targets of gaze, participants made longer fixations (both ps < .001) and spent more time per visit (p = .018 and p < .001, respectively), suggesting that these social features not only attract, but also hold attention more than other objects. Finally, shorter visit times for gazing faces (p

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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