Eye Movements & Scene Perception

Making sense of the world around us is a highly active process that involves the continuous reconstruction of a perceptual representation of the world from fragmented and ever changing sensory information. In this line of research we study this dynamic interactive process and the eye movements involved.

Oculomotor Control


Every minute of our waking lives our eyes are in motion. Whether the movements are large, fast shifts of gaze from one part of a visual scene to another (a saccade), slow pursuits of moving targets or micro movements whilst our eyes attempt to stabilize the projected image of a detail of interest on our retina (fixational eye movements), these movements tell us a lot about how individuals actively engage with processing the world around them. In this line of research we empirically investigate and computationally model the control processes behind these ocular behaviours and what they tell us about individual differences, the neural systems involved and how they contribute to our perception of audiovisual worlds. Links: CRISP - our Computational model of fixation timing during scene viewing Key publications: Batten, Jonathan P. and Smith, Tim J. (2018) Saccades predict and synchronize to visual rhythms irrespective of musical beats. Visual Cognition, ISSN 1464-0716. Hinde, S. J. and Smith, Tim J. and Gilchrist, I. D. (2017) In search of oculomotor capture during film viewing: implications for the balance of top-down and bottom-up control in the saccadic system. Vision Research 134, pp. 7-17. ISSN 0042-6989. Luke, S. G. and Smith, Tim J. and Schmidt, J. and Henderson, J. M. (2014) Dissociating temporal inhibition of return and saccadic momentum across multiple eye-movement tasks. Journal of Vision 14 (14), p. 9. ISSN 1534-7362. Smith, Tim J. and Henderson, J.M. (2011) Does oculomotor inhibition of return influence fixation probability during scene search? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 73 (8), pp. 2384-2398. ISSN 1943-3921. Smith, Tim J. and Henderson, J. M. (2011) Looking back at Waldo: oculomotor inhibition of return does not prevent return fixations. Journal of Vision 11 (1), p. 3. ISSN 1534-7362. Nuthmann, A. and Smith, Tim J. and Engbert, R. and Henderson, J. M. (2010) CRISP: a computational model of fixation durations in scene viewing. Psychological Review 117 (2), pp. 382-405. ISSN 0033-295X. Smith, Tim J. and Henderson, J. M. (2009) Facilitation of return during scene viewing. Visual Cognition 17 (6-7), pp. 1083-1108. ISSN 1350-6285. Henderson, J. M. and Smith, Tim J. (2009) How are eye fixation durations controlled during scene viewing? Further evidence from a scene onset delay paradigm. Visual Cognition 17 (6-7), pp. 1055-1082. ISSN 1350-6285.




Development of Attention Control in Typical and Atypical Populations


How do we develop the ability to filter out irrelevant or distracting visual information so that we can concentrate our limited cognitive resources on the most important information? Which visual features attract infant gaze and how does this change over the first few years of life? How do individual differences in attention and oculomotor control during a child’s first year predict later educational success, cognitive abilities and clinically relevant traits such as executive function, ASD and ADHD? This line of research has endeavoured to bring the experimental, methodological, statistical and computational rigour of adult eye tracking research to infancy and developmental questions. In doing so we have developed several methodological solutions (e.g. GraFIX) and developmentally appropriate paradigms and stimulus sets, e.g. the ‘Dancing Ladies’ videos pictured above; Saez De Urabain, Nuthmann, Johnson & Smith, 2017). Key publications: Saez de Urabain, Irati R. and Nuthmann, A. and Johnson, Mark H. and Smith, Tim J. (2017) Disentangling the mechanisms underlying infant fixation durations in scene perception: a computational account. Vision Research 134, pp. 43-59. ISSN 0042-6989. Papageorgiou, K.A. and Farroni, Teresa and Johnson, Mark H. and Smith, Tim J. and Ronald, Angelica (2015) Individual differences in newborn visual attention associate with temperament and behavioral difficulties in later childhood. Scientific Reports 5, p. 11264. ISSN 2045-2322. Gliga, Teodora and Smith, Tim J. and Likely, N. and Charman, T. and Johnson, Mark H. (2015) Early visual foraging in relationship to familial risk for autism and hyperactivity/inattention. Journal of Attention Disorders 22 (9), pp. 839-847. ISSN 1087-0547. Wass, S.V. and Jones, Emily J.H. and Gliga, Teodora and Smith, Tim J. and Charman, T. and Johnson, Mark H. and Baron-Cohen, S. and Bedford, R. and Bolton, P. and Chandler, S. and Davies, K. and Fernandes, J. and Garwood, H. and Hudry, K. and Maris, H. and Pasco, G. and Pickles, A. and Ribiero, H. and Tucker, L. and Volein, Agnes (2015) Shorter spontaneous fixation durations in infants with later emerging autism. Scientific Reports 5, p. 8284. ISSN 2045-2322. Saez de Urabain, I.R. and Johnson, Mark H. and Smith, Tim J. (2014) GraFIX: a semiautomatic approach for parsing low- and high-quality eye-tracking data. Behavior Research Methods 47 (1), pp. 53-72. ISSN 1554-3528. Papageorgiou, Kostas A. and Smith, Tim J. and Wu, Rachel and Johnson, Mark H. and Kirkham, Natasha Z. and Ronald, Angelica (2014) Individual differences in infant fixation duration relate to attention and behavioral control in childhood. Psychological Science 25 (7), pp. 1371-1379. ISSN 0956-7976. Wass, S.V. and Smith, Tim J. (2014) Individual differences in infant oculomotor behavior during the viewing of complex naturalistic scenes. Infancy 19 (4), pp. 352-384. ISSN 1525-0008.




Audiovisual Scene Perception


What factors influence where we attend during naturalistic scene viewing? There is a long history of investigating and computationally modelling the contribution of low-level visual salience (e.g. edges, luminance and colour contrast) to gaze behaviour in static photographs but what about when we engage with scenes that capture more of the real-world properties of scenes, such as motion, sound and full-bodily immersion? To aid research in this domain we have made a large corpus of eye movements and associated video clips available online as well as the software for visualising and analysing gaze data on video:

Key publications: Batten, J. and Smith, Tim J. (2018) Looking at sound: sound design and the audiovisual influences on gaze. In: Dwyer, T. and Perkins, C.and Redmond, S. and Sita, J. (eds.) Seeing into Screens: Eye Tracking and the Moving Image. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781501329029. Smith, Tim J. (2014) Audiovisual correspondences in Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky: a case study in viewer attention. In: Taberham, P. and Nannicelli, T. (eds.) Cognitive Media Theory (AFI Film Reader),. AFI Film Readers. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415629874. Smith, Tim J. (2013) Watching you watch movies: using eye tracking to inform film theory. In: Shimamura, A (ed.) Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies. New York, U.S.: Oxford University Press, pp. 165-191. ISBN 9780199862139. Smith, Tim J. and Lamont, P. and Henderson, J. M. (2013) Change blindness in a dynamic scene due to endogenous override of exogenous attentional cues. Perception 42, pp. 884-886. ISSN 0301-0066. Smith, Tim J. and Mital, P. K. (2013) Attentional synchrony and the influence of viewing task on gaze behavior in static and dynamic scenes. Journal of Vision 13 (8), ISSN 1534-7362. Mital, P. K. and Smith, Tim J. and Hill, R. L. and Henderson, J. M. (2011) Clustering of gaze during dynamic scene viewing is predicted by motion. Cognitive Computation 3 (1), pp. 5-24. ISSN 1866-9956. Smith, Tim J. and Henderson, J. (2010) Attentional synchrony in static and dynamic scenes. Journal of Vision 8 (6), p. 773. ISSN 1534-7362. Henderson, J. M. and Chanceaux, M. and Smith, Tim J. (2009) The influence of clutter on real-world scene search: evidence from search efficiency and eye movements. Journal of Vision 9 (1), p. 32. ISSN 1534-7362. Rayner, K. and Smith, Tim J. and Malcolm, G. L. and Henderson, J. M. (2009) Eye movements and visual encoding during scene perception. Psychological Science 20 (1), pp. 6-10. ISSN 0956-7976.




Social Cognition: Attention, Events & Magic


We are social beings. Whenever we attend to a scene we are predisposed to prioritise social information, e.g. faces, bodies, hands and the objects and areas people are likely to be in or interact with. A full appreciation of how we attend to and process natural scenes cannot ignore the role our social brain plays in this process. This line of research endeavours to understand social attention in screen-based, real-world and virtual contexts. Magic: A sub-strand of research within this theme has been to understand how magician’s manipulate viewer attention and awareness during magic tricks. For more information on the Psychology of Magic see Gustav Kuhn’s work. Events: Social information is only static when you force it to be so by freezing it in a photograph (as traditional screen-based studies often do). In the real-world, all social information is embedded in a dynamic flow of events that govern how we attend to and comprehend the scenes before us. For our work on how events may influence the way we process dynamic scenes and visual narratives refer to our Film Cognition page. Jeff Zack’s research lab is also a font of wisdom on this topic. Here is a useful video introduction to our work on this topic from the Interacting Minds Centre (IMC), Aarhus University, Denmark as part of their bootcamp on Visual Attention: Key publications: Vernetti, Angelina and Smith, Tim J. and Senju, Atsushi (2017) Gaze-contingent reinforcement learning reveals incentive value of social signals in young children and adults. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284 (1850), ISSN 0962-8452. Van Herwegen, J and Smith, Tim J. and Dimitriou, D. (2015) Exploring different explanations for performance on a theory of mind task in Williams syndrome and Autism using eye movements. Research in Developmental Disabilities 45-46, pp. 202-209. ISSN 0891-4222. Smith, Tim J. (2015) The role of audience participation and task relevance on change detection during a card trick. Frontiers in Psychology 6 (13), ISSN 1664-1078. Smith, Tim J. and Mital, P. K. (2013) Attentional synchrony and the influence of viewing task on gaze behavior in static and dynamic scenes. Journal of Vision 13 (8), ISSN 1534-7362. Smith, Tim J. and Lamont, P. and Henderson, J. M. (2013) Change blindness in a dynamic scene due to endogenous override of exogenous attentional cues. Perception 42, pp. 884-886. ISSN 0301-0066. Vo, M. L-H. and Smith, Tim J. and Mital, P. K. and Henderson, J. M. (2012) Do the eyes really have it? Dynamic allocation of attention when viewing moving faces. Journal of Vision 12 (13), p. 3. ISSN 1534-7362. Smith, Tim J. and Lamont, P. and Henderson, J. M. (2012) The penny drops: change blindness at fixation. Perception 41 (4), pp. 489-492. ISSN 0301-0066. Dalzel-Job, S. and Oberlander, J. and Smith, Tim J. (2011) Contested staring: issues and the use of mutual gaze as an on-line measure of social presence. In: UNSPECIFIED (ed.) International Society for Presence Research Annual Conference – ISPR 2011. International Society for Presence Research. ISBN 9780979221743. Lamont, P. and Henderson, J. M. and Smith, Tim J. (2010) Where science and magic meet: the illusion of a “science of magic”. Review of General Psychology 14 (1), pp. 16-21. ISSN 1089-2680. Smith, Tim J. and Whitwell, M. and Lee, J. (2006) Eye movements and pupil dilation during event perception. In: UNSPECIFIED (ed.) Proceedings of the 2006 symposium on Eye tracking research & applications - ETRA '06. New York, U.S.: Association For Computing Machinery, p. 48. ISBN 1595933050.





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