, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 196-208

Covert visual attention and extrafoveal information use during object identification


Three experiments are reported that examined the relationship between covert visual attention and a viewer’s ability to use extrafoveal visual information during object identification. Subjects looked at arrays of four objects while their eye movements were recorded. Their task was to identify the objects in the array for an immediate probe memory test. During viewing, the number and location of objects visible during given fixations were manipulated. In Experiments 1 and 2, we found that multiple extrafoveal previews of an object did not afford any more benefit than a single extrafoveal preview, as assessed by means of time of fixation on the objects. In Experiment 3, we found evidence for a model in which extrafoveal information acquired during a fixation derives primarily from the location toward which the eyes will move next. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for the relationship between covert visual attention and extrafoveal information use, and a sequential attention model is proposed.

The research presented in this article was supported by NIMH Predoctorai Training Grant MH16745 to John M. Henderson, and by NSF Grant BNS86-09336 to Keith Rayner and Alexander Pollatsek. This research derives from a doctoral dissertation submitted by John M. Henderson to the University of Massachusetts. Aspects of the data were presented at the 1987 meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Seattle and the 1988 meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association in Montreal.