Mechanisms of saccadic decision making while encoding naturalistic scenes


Saccadic eye movements are the primary vehicle by which human gaze is brought in alignment with vital visual information present in naturalistic scenes. Although numerous studies using the double-step paradigm have demonstrated that saccade preparation is subject to modification under certain conditions, this has yet to be studied directly within a naturalistic scene-viewing context. To reveal characteristic properties of saccade programming during naturalistic scene viewing, we contrasted behavior across three conditions. In the Static condition of the main experiment, double-step targets were presented following a period of stable fixation on a central cross. In a Scene condition, targets were presented while participants actively explored a naturalistic scene. During a Noise condition, targets were presented during active exploration of a 1/f noise-filtered scene. In Experiment 2, we measure saccadic responses in three Static conditions (Uniform, Scene, and Noise) in which the backgrounds are the same as Experiment 1 but scene exploration is no longer permitted. We find that the mechanisms underlying saccade modification generalize to both dynamic conditions. However, we show that a property of saccade programming known as the saccadic dead time (SDT), the interval prior to saccade onset during which a saccade may not be canceled or modified, is lower in the Static task than it is in the dynamic tasks. We also find a trend toward longer SDT in the Scene as compared with Noise conditions. We discuss the implication of these results for computational models of scene viewing, reading, and visual search tasks.

Journal of Vision
Calen Walshe
Research Fellow