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J Vis. 2010 Aug 26;10(10):28. doi: 10.1167/10.10.28.

Variability of eye movements when viewing dynamic natural scenes.

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Institute for Neuro- and Bioinformatics, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.


How similar are the eye movement patterns of different subjects when free viewing dynamic natural scenes? We collected a large database of eye movements from 54 subjects on 18 high-resolution videos of outdoor scenes and measured their variability using the Normalized Scanpath Saliency, which we extended to the temporal domain. Even though up to about 80% of subjects looked at the same image region in some video parts, variability usually was much greater. Eye movements on natural movies were then compared with eye movements in several control conditions. "Stop-motion" movies had almost identical semantic content as the original videos but lacked continuous motion. Hollywood action movie trailers were used to probe the upper limit of eye movement coherence that can be achieved by deliberate camera work, scene cuts, etc. In a "repetitive" condition, subjects viewed the same movies ten times each over the course of 2 days. Results show several systematic differences between conditions both for general eye movement parameters such as saccade amplitude and fixation duration and for eye movement variability. Most importantly, eye movements on static images are initially driven by stimulus onset effects and later, more so than on continuous videos, by subject-specific idiosyncrasies; eye movements on Hollywood movies are significantly more coherent than those on natural movies. We conclude that the stimuli types often used in laboratory experiments, static images and professionally cut material, are not very representative of natural viewing behavior. All stimuli and gaze data are publicly available at

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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