Psychological Research

, Volume 76, Issue 6, pp 713–729 | Cite as

Gaze behaviour during space perception and spatial decision making

  • Jan M. WienerEmail author
  • Christoph Hölscher
  • Simon Büchner
  • Lars Konieczny
Original Article


A series of four experiments investigating gaze behavior and decision making in the context of wayfinding is reported. Participants were presented with screenshots of choice points taken in large virtual environments. Each screenshot depicted alternative path options. In Experiment 1, participants had to decide between them to find an object hidden in the environment. In Experiment 2, participants were first informed about which path option to take as if following a guided route. Subsequently, they were presented with the same images in random order and had to indicate which path option they chose during initial exposure. In Experiment 1, we demonstrate (1) that participants have a tendency to choose the path option that featured the longer line of sight, and (2) a robust gaze bias towards the eventually chosen path option. In Experiment 2, systematic differences in gaze behavior towards the alternative path options between encoding and decoding were observed. Based on data from Experiments 1 and 2 and two control experiments ensuring that fixation patterns were specific to the spatial tasks, we develop a tentative model of gaze behavior during wayfinding decision making suggesting that particular attention was paid to image areas depicting changes in the local geometry of the environments such as corners, openings, and occlusions. Together, the results suggest that gaze during a wayfinding tasks is directed toward, and can be predicted by, a subset of environmental features and that gaze bias effects are a general phenomenon of visual decision making.


Depth Profile Visual Attention Path Option Spatial Task Encode Phase 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation (Tandem project: “Wayfinding Strategies in Behavior and Language”) and the SFB/TR8 “Spatial Cognition”. Special thanks to J. Wendler, J. Henschel, and A. Günther for their help in carrying out the experiment and analyzing the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan M. Wiener
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Christoph Hölscher
    • 2
  • Simon Büchner
    • 2
  • Lars Konieczny
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBournemouth UniversityPooleUK
  2. 2.Center for Cognitive ScienceFreiburg UniversityFreiburgGermany

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