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Taren Rohovit, Spencer Ivy, Mark Lavelle, Jeanine Stefanucci, Dustin Stokes, Trafton Drew; Through the eyes of an expert: Evaluating holistic processing in architects using gaze-contingent viewing. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):294. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.294.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Studies in the psychology of visual expertise have tended to focus on a limited set of expert domains; largely in radiology and athletics. Conclusions drawn from these data indicate that experts use parafoveal vision to process images holistically. In this study, we examined a novel, as-of-yet-unstudied class of visual experts – architects – expecting similar results. However, our study’s data indicate that architects, though visual experts, do not employ the holistic processing strategy analogously to their previously studied counterparts. Participants (n=24) were asked to find targets in x-rays and perspectival images. These images were presented in both gaze contingent and normal conditions. Consistent with the holistic processing model, we expected two results. First, architects would display a greater difference in saccadic amplitude between the gaze contingent and normal conditions. Second, architects would spend less time per search than an undergraduate control group (n=24). However, we found that although the architects were more accurate in the perspectival task, they took more time and displayed a lower difference in saccadic amplitude than the controls. Both undergraduates and architects were equally inaccurate when searching for targets in radiographs, suggesting that visual expertise may not generalize across domains. Our research indicates a disjunctive conclusion. Either architects are simply different kinds of visual experts than those previously studied, or we have generated a task that employs visual expertise without holistic processing. Our data suggest a healthy skepticism for across-the-board inferences collected from a single domain of expertise to the nature of visual expertise generally. Although holism may be a feature of some experts’ ‘perceptual powers,’ we conclude that our data reveal a limit to this law.
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