New article accepted in "Scientific Reports"

Title: "Searchers adjust their eye movement dynamics to target characteristics in natural scenes" by Lars O.M. Rothkegel, Heiko H. Schütt, Hans A. Trukenbrod, Felix A. Wichmann, Ralf Engbert


When searching a target in a natural scene, it has been shown that both the target's visual properties and similarity to the background influence whether and how fast humans are able to find it. So far, it was unclear whether searchers adjust the dynamics of their eye movements (e.g., fixation durations, saccade amplitudes) to the target they search for. In our experiment participants searched natural scenes for six artificial targets with different spatial frequency content throughout eight consecutive sessions. High-spatial frequency targets led to smaller saccade amplitudes and shorter fixation durations than low-spatial frequency targets if target identity was known. If a saccade was programmed in the same direction as the previous saccade, fixation durations and successive saccade amplitudes were not influenced by target type. Visual saliency and empirical fixation density at the endpoints of saccades which maintain direction were comparatively low, indicating that these saccades were less selective. Our results suggest that searchers adjust their eye movement dynamics to the search target efficiently, since previous research has shown that low-spatial frequencies are visible farther into the periphery than high-spatial frequencies. We interpret the saccade direction specificity of our effects as an underlying separation into a default scanning mechanism and a selective, target-dependent mechanism.