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Does Retinal or Perceived Space Guide Eye Movements?

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This study aims to advance our basic understanding of how we perceive objects in our environment. It’s unclear whether we understand object structure based on only how we perceive or on how it truly exists in the world. Examining eye-movements provides insight into how our visual system represents and understands objects. A perceived-space hypothesis predicts that we look at two different-looking objects in different ways, even if they are the same size from one’s perspective. However, a retinal-space hypothesis predicts that we look at those objects in the same way, even if they are perceived to be different sizes. This study examined this question by collecting eye-tracking data when objects’ perceived size was manipulated with the Configural Shape Illusion—the illusion of continuity/elongation through distortion of a target through the presence of an adjacent shape. Participants were shown a semi-circle adjacent to a rectangle, with either zero spacing or with a small gap between them, and asked to indicate whether the semi-circle’s color matched that of a fixation circle. If object perception is influenced by perceived-space, then eye-fixations should differ between these two conditions because the semi-circle appears larger in the zero-spacing condition. Results showed no significant difference between participants’ first fixation on the semi-circle across the conditions, suggesting that an object’s perceived size does not influence our initial representation of an object’s structure. Further research is necessary to tell whether perceived-size influences object perception in subsequent processing, even if it may not be prioritized for initial percept guiding eye-movements.

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  • 06/13/2018
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