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J Vis. 2019 Jan 2;19(1):1. doi: 10.1167/19.1.1.

What pops out for you pops out for fish: Four common visual features.

Author information

Life Sciences Department, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.
Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.
Department of Neurobiology, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.
Department of Computer Science, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.


Visual search is the ability to detect a target of interest against a background of distracting objects. For many animals, performing this task fast and accurately is crucial for survival. Typically, visual-search performance is measured by the time it takes the observer to detect a target against a backdrop of distractors. The efficiency of a visual search depends fundamentally on the features of the target, the distractors, and the interaction between them. Substantial efforts have been devoted to investigating the influence of different visual features on visual-search performance in humans. In particular, it has been demonstrated that color, size, orientation, and motion are efficient visual features to guide attention in humans. However, little is known about which features are efficient and which are not in other vertebrates. Given earlier observations that moving targets elicit pop-out and parallel search in the archerfish during visual-search tasks, here we investigate and confirm that all four of these visual features also facilitate efficient search in the archerfish in a manner comparable to humans. In conjunction with results reported for other species, these finding suggest universality in the way visual search is carried out by animals despite very different brain anatomies and living environments.


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