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Christian Wolf, Markus Lappe; Salient objects dominate the central fixation bias when orienting toward images. Journal of Vision 2021;21(8):23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.8.23.
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Short-latency saccades are often biased toward salient objects or toward the center of images, for example, when inspecting photographs of natural scenes. Here, we measured the contribution of salient objects and central fixation bias to visual selection over time. Participants made saccades to images containing one salient object on a structured background and were instructed to either look at (i) the image center, (ii) the salient object, or (iii) at a cued position halfway in between the two. Results revealed, first, an early involuntary bias toward the image center irrespective of strategic behavior or the location of objects in the image. Second, the salient object bias was stronger than the center bias and prevailed over the latter when they directly competed for visual selection. In a second experiment, we tested whether the center bias depends on how well the image can be segregated from the monitor background. We asked participants to explore images that either did or did not contain a salient object while we manipulated the contrast between image background and monitor background to make the image borders more or less visible. The initial orienting toward the image was not affected by the image-monitor contrast, but only by the presence of objects—with a strong bias toward the center of images containing no object. Yet, a low image-monitor contrast reduced this center bias during the subsequent image exploration.
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