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Heiko H. Schütt, Lars O. M. Rothkegel, Hans A. Trukenbrod, Ralf Engbert, Felix A. Wichmann; Disentangling bottom-up versus top-down and low-level versus high-level influences on eye movements over time. Journal of Vision 2019;19(3):1. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.3.1.
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Bottom-up and top-down as well as low-level and high-level factors influence where we fixate when viewing natural scenes. However, the importance of each of these factors and how they interact remains a matter of debate. Here, we disentangle these factors by analyzing their influence over time. For this purpose, we develop a saliency model that is based on the internal representation of a recent early spatial vision model to measure the low-level, bottom-up factor. To measure the influence of high-level, bottom-up features, we use a recent deep neural network–based saliency model. To account for top-down influences, we evaluate the models on two large data sets with different tasks: first, a memorization task and, second, a search task. Our results lend support to a separation of visual scene exploration into three phases: the first saccade, an initial guided exploration characterized by a gradual broadening of the fixation density, and a steady state that is reached after roughly 10 fixations. Saccade-target selection during the initial exploration and in the steady state is related to similar areas of interest, which are better predicted when including high-level features. In the search data set, fixation locations are determined predominantly by top-down processes. In contrast, the first fixation follows a different fixation density and contains a strong central fixation bias. Nonetheless, first fixations are guided strongly by image properties, and as early as 200 ms after image onset, fixations are better predicted by high-level information. We conclude that any low-level, bottom-up factors are mainly limited to the generation of the first saccade. All saccades are better explained when high-level features are considered, and later, this high-level, bottom-up control can be overruled by top-down influences.
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