September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Individual fixation preferences within a face generalise to other kinds of objects
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Ben de Haas
    Experimental Psychology, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany
  • Maximilian D. Broda
    Experimental Psychology, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  Supported by European Research Council Starting Grant 852885 INDIVISUAL; BdH was further supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) Project No. 222641018–SFB/TRR 135 TP A8.
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 1956. doi:
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      Ben de Haas, Maximilian D. Broda; Individual fixation preferences within a face generalise to other kinds of objects. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):1956.

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

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The typical landing point of the first fixation towards a face is just below the eyes. This is compatible with a foveated ideal observer, aiming to maximise information about facial identity and expression. However, there are reliable individual differences in the exact height of this landing point and these differences are performance-maximising for the individual. It is unclear whether this variation is due to the matching of individual face templates or to individual foveation, i.e. the individual distribution of resources across the visual field. We hypothesized that variance in foveation would predict an extension of fixation differences to other types of objects. A sample of 101 observers freely viewed 700 natural scenes. We extracted each fixation landing on a given face or non-face object first and calculated their relative height within the object. Results confirmed considerable individual differences for the relative height of face directed fixations and – crucially – also for fixations towards non-face objects. Importantly, both were highly correlated with each other (r = .88), showing that observers fixating higher or lower within a face show a similar tendency for other kinds of objects. Control analyses confirmed the consistency of these tendencies across images, image quadrants and experimental sessions separated by weeks. These results show that idiosyncratically preferred fixation locations generalise from faces to other types of objects and support the hypothesis they are related to general differences in foveation. We plan to further test this hypothesis by probing whether the preferred height of fixation reflects individual anisotropies in visual crowding and cortical magnification.


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