December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Irrelevant visual properties induce dramatic changes in search efficiency
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Anna Nowakowska
    University of Aberdeen
  • Alasdair Clarke
    University of Essex
  • Josephine Reuther
    University of Aberdeen
  • Amelia Hunt
    University of Aberdeen
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/S016120/1].
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 4238. doi:
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      Anna Nowakowska, Alasdair Clarke, Josephine Reuther, Amelia Hunt; Irrelevant visual properties induce dramatic changes in search efficiency. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):4238.

      Download citation file:

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

  • Supplements

To sample information efficiently, the fovea needs to be directed to the places where it is most needed to resolve the visual input. In this series of experiments, we define efficiency as the proportion of fixations that target locations where higher resolution is required. By our measure of efficiency, some people are near-optimal, some random, and some even counter-optimal. This conclusion comes from simple arrays of line segments, under the assumption that these will minimize the individual differences in experience that could introduce unnecessary variation in behaviour. We then systematically varied surface level properties of the stimuli to test whether individual differences in efficiency generalise from one visual context to another. Across five experiments (with a total N of 105) we measured the efficiency of healthy observers as they searched through simple line segment stimuli, desktop icons, polygons and pens. Objectively, the ease of implementing an efficient strategy should have been the same across all contexts, but we observed large differences between contexts. In particular, the efficiency of searching for a particular orientation among distractors, whether they are pens or lines, is variable across individuals, while eye movements during search for a particular identity among objects are uniformly closer to optimal. These results demonstrate that small changes to surface-level details of the task can lead to large changes in measured behaviour. This result could help explain contradictory evidence about the extent to which eye movements are driven by information gain, and also challenge the assumption that observations based on simple visual stimuli scale up to more complex objects.


This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.