The functional arrangement of objects biases gaze direction

  • Andrew ClementEmail author
  • Ryan E. O’Donnell
  • James R. Brockmole
Brief Report


A growing number of studies suggest that semantic knowledge can influence the control of gaze in scenes. For example, observers are more likely to look toward objects that are semantically related to the currently fixated object. Recent evidence also suggests that an object’s functional orientation can bias gaze direction. However, it is unknown whether these semantic and functional relationships can interact to determine gaze control. To address this issue, the present study assessed whether the functional arrangement of multiple objects can influence gaze control. Participants fixated a central object (e.g., a key) flanked by two peripheral objects. After a brief delay, participants were free to shift their gaze toward the peripheral object of their choice. One of the peripheral objects was semantically related to the central object (e.g., a lock), and the objects were arranged to depict a functional or non-functional interaction (e.g., a key pointing toward or away from a lock). When the orientation of the central object was manipulated, participants were more likely to look in the direction this object was pointing. Moreover, the functional arrangement of objects modulated this central orienting bias. However, when the orientation of the peripheral objects was manipulated, only the peripheral objects’ semantic relationships influenced gaze control. Together, these findings suggest that functional relationships play an important role in the allocation of gaze, and can interact with semantic relationships to determine gaze control.


Eye movements Gaze control Semantic relationships Functional interactions Scene perception 



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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Clement
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ryan E. O’Donnell
    • 3
  • James R. Brockmole
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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