05.10.2017 08:26

New article accepted in "Journal of Vision"

Title: "The temporal evolution of the central fixation bias in scene viewing" by Lars O. M. Rothkegel, Hans A. Trukenbrod, Heiko H. Schütt, Felix A. Wichmann, Ralf Engbert


When watching the image of a natural scene on a computer screen, observers initially move their eyes towards the center of the image --- a reliable experimental finding termed central fixation bias. This systematic tendency in eye guidance likely masks attentional selection driven by image properties and top-down cognitive processes. Here we show that the central fixation bias can be reduced by delaying the initial saccade relative to image onset. In four scene-viewing experiments we manipulated observers' initial gaze position and delayed their first saccade by a specific time interval relative to the onset of an image. We analyzed the distance to image center over time and show that the central fixation bias of initial fixations was significantly reduced after delayed saccade onsets. We additionally show that selection of the initial saccade target strongly depended on the first saccade latency. Processes influencing the time course of the central fixation bias were investigated by comparing simulations of several dynamic and statistical models. Model comparisons suggest that the central fixation bias is generated by a default activation as a response to the sudden image onset and that this default activation pattern decreases over time. Our results suggest that it may often be preferable to use a modified version of the scene viewing paradigm that decouples image onset from the start signal for scene exploration and explicitly controls the central fixation bias. In general, the initial fixation location and the latency of the first saccade need to be taken into consideration when investigating eye movements during scene viewing.