The role of eye movements in a contour detection task

Nathalie Van Humbeeck, Nadine Schmitt, Frouke Hermens, Johan Wagemans, Udo A Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Vision combines local feature integration with active viewing processes, such as eye movements, to perceive complex visual scenes. However, it is still unclear how these processes interact and support each other. Here, we investigated how the dynamics of saccadic eye movements interact with contour integration, focusing on situations in which contours are difficult to find or even absent. We recorded observers' eye movements while they searched for a contour embedded in a background of randomly oriented elements. Task difficulty was manipulated by varying the contour's path angle. An association field model of contour integration was employed to predict potential saccade targets by identifying stimulus locations with high contour salience. We found that the number and duration of fixations increased with the increasing path angle of the contour. In addition, fixation duration increased over the course of a trial, and the time course of saccade amplitude depended on the percept of observers. Model fitting revealed that saccades fully compensate for the reduced saliency of peripheral contour targets. Importantly, our model predicted fixation locations to a considerable degree, indicating that observers fixated collinear elements. These results show that contour integration actively guides eye movements and determines their spatial and temporal parameters.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular/physiology
  • Form Perception/physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Saccades/physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


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