Implicitly perceived objects attract gaze during later free viewing Academic Article uri icon


  • Everyday life frequently requires searching for objects in the visual scene. Visual search is typically accompanied by a series of eye movements. In an effort to explain subjects' scanning patterns, models of visual search propose that a template of the target is used, to guide gaze (and attention) to locations which exhibit "suspicious" similarity to this template. We show here that the scanning patterns are also clearly influenced by implicit (unrecognized) cues: A backward masked object, presented before the scene display, automatically attracts gaze to its corresponding location in the following inspected image. Interestingly, subliminally observed words describing objects do not have the same effect. This demonstrates that visual search can be unconsciously guided by activated target representations at the perceptual level, but it is much less affected by implicit information at the semantic level. Implications on search models are discussed.

publication date

  • January 1, 2009