Salient object changes influence overt attentional prioritization and object-based targeting in natural scenes

Nicola C. Anderson, Mieke Donk

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A change to an object in natural scenes attracts attention when it occurs during a fixation. However, when a change occurs during a saccade, and is masked by saccadic suppression, it typically does not capture the gaze in a bottom-up manner. In the present work, we investigated how the type and direction of salient changes to objects affect the prioritization and targeting of objects in natural scenes. We asked observers to look around a scene in preparation for a later memory test. After a period of time, an object in the scene was increased or decreased in salience either during a fixation (with a transient signal) or during a saccade (without transient signal), or it was not changed at all. Changes that were made during a fixation attracted the eyes both when the change involved an increase and a decrease in salience. However, changes that were made during a saccade only captured the eyes when the change was an increase in salience, relative to the baseline no-change condition. These results suggest that the prioritization of object changes can be influenced by the underlying salience of the changed object. In addition, object changes that occurred with a transient signal (which is itself a salient signal) resulted in more central object targeting. Taken together, our results suggest that salient signals in a natural scene are an important component in both object prioritization and targeting in natural scene viewing, insofar as they align with object locations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0172132
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2017


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