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J Vis. 2009 Oct 27;9(11):25.1-22. doi: 10.1167/9.11.25.

Everyone knows what is interesting: salient locations which should be fixated.

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Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA.


Most natural scenes are too complex to be perceived instantaneously in their entirety. Observers therefore have to select parts of them and process these parts sequentially. We study how this selection and prioritization process is performed by humans at two different levels. One is the overt attention mechanism of saccadic eye movements in a free-viewing paradigm. The second is a conscious decision process in which we asked observers which points in a scene they considered the most interesting. We find in a very large participant population (more than one thousand) that observers largely agree on which points they consider interesting. Their selections are also correlated with the eye movement pattern of different subjects. Both are correlated with predictions of a purely bottom-up saliency map model. Thus, bottom-up saliency influences cognitive processes as far removed from the sensory periphery as in the conscious choice of what an observer considers interesting.

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