chapter  4
21 Pages

The nature of visual attention

Usually, we move our eyes to an object or location in space in order to fixate what we are attending to. However, as early as 1866, Helmholtz noted that attention and fixation were not necessarily coincident. In the introduction we noted that if you fixate in one place (for example, on the asterisk here*) you are able to read nearby words without shifting fixation to the location occupied by those words. Further, if you are attending and fixating in one place, you may find your attention drawn to a familiar word, such as your name or home town, elsewhere on the page, or by a movement in peripheral vision. It is as if there is some kind of breakthrough, or interrupt mechanism caused by information outside fixation.