September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
A natural look at scanpath theory: The way we move our head and eyes predicts scene recognition
Author Affiliations
  • Nicola Anderson
    University of British Columbia
  • Oliver Jacobs
    University of British Columbia
  • Walter Bischof
    University of British Columbia
  • Alan Kingstone
    University of British Columbia
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2222. doi:
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      Nicola Anderson, Oliver Jacobs, Walter Bischof, Alan Kingstone; A natural look at scanpath theory: The way we move our head and eyes predicts scene recognition. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2222.

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

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It has long been thought that visual perception is represented in sensorimotor processes that unfold over time. One prominent theory states that our memory for a scene contains both the scene's content and the motor commands used to explore the scene (i.e., eye movements). Scanpath theory (Noton & Stark, 1971) has long been contested, with studies providing evidence both for and against it. That past work, however, did not include the fact that visual perception is embodied within an active system of effectors; namely, that people normally move their head as well as their eyes when exploring visible space. The present work tested scanpath theory in fully immersive 360 degree scenes leaving individuals free to move their heads and well as their eyes while they explored scenes for a subsequent memory test. During both encoding and recognition, we recorded their head and eye movements using a virtual reality headset equipped with eye and head tracking. Relevant to scanpath theory, as well as to embodied conceptualizations of perception and memory, our results show that repeating certain head and eye movement patterns made during encoding renders those scenes more likely to be recognized.


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