Eye movements reveal learning and information-seeking in attentional template acquisition

Defne Alfandari, Artem V. Belopolsky, Christian N.L. Olivers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Visual attention serves to select relevant visual information. However, observers often first need to find out what is relevant. Little is known about this information-seeking process and how it affects attention. We employed a cued visual search task in combination with eye tracking to investigate which oculomotor measures reflect the acquisition of information for a subsequent task. A cue indicated as to which target to look for in a following search display. Cue-target combinations were repeated several times, enabling learning of the target. We found that reductions in cue fixation times and saccade size provided stable indices of learning. Despite the learning, participants continued to attend to repeated cues. Several factors contribute to people attending to information they already know: First, the information value provided by the cue continues to drive attention. Second, even in the absence of information value, attention continues to be directed to cue features that previously signalled relevant information. Third, the decision to attend to a known cue depends on cognitive effort. We propose that this combination of information value, previous relevance, and effort is best captured within an information-seeking framework, and that oculomotor parameters provide a useful proxy for uncovering these factors and their interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-486
Number of pages20
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number5-8
Early online date22 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Visual Search and Selective Attention


  • information-seeking
  • learning
  • Visual attention
  • visual search


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