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Candace E. Peacock, Ting Zhang, Brendan David-John, T. Scott Murdison, Matthew J. Boring, Hrvoje Benko, Tanya R. Jonker; Gaze dynamics are sensitive to target orienting for working memory encoding in virtual reality. Journal of Vision 2022;22(1):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.22.1.2.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Numerous studies have demonstrated that visuospatial attention is a requirement for successful working memory encoding. It is unknown, however, whether this established relationship manifests in consistent gaze dynamics as people orient their visuospatial attention toward an encoding target when searching for information in naturalistic environments. To test this hypothesis, participants' eye movements were recorded while they searched for and encoded objects in a virtual apartment (Experiment 1). We decomposed gaze into 61 features that capture gaze dynamics and a trained sliding window logistic regression model that has potential for use in real-time systems to predict when participants found target objects for working memory encoding. A model trained on group data successfully predicted when people oriented to a target for encoding for the trained task (Experiment 1) and for a novel task (Experiment 2), where a new set of participants found objects and encoded an associated nonword in a cluttered virtual kitchen. Six of these features were predictive of target orienting for encoding, even during the novel task, including decreased distances between subsequent fixation/saccade events, increased fixation probabilities, and slower saccade decelerations before encoding. This suggests that as people orient toward a target to encode new information at the end of search, they decrease task-irrelevant, exploratory sampling behaviors. This behavior was common across the two studies. Together, this research demonstrates how gaze dynamics can be used to capture target orienting for working memory encoding and has implications for real-world use in technology and special populations.
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