What controls attention in natural environments?

Hiroyuki Shinoda, M. M. Hayhoe, Anurag Shrivastava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


The highly task-specific fixation patterns revealed in performance of natural tasks demonstrate the fundamentally active nature of vision, and suggest that in many situations, top-down processes may be a major factor in the acquisition of visual information. Understanding how a top-down visual system could function requires understanding the mechanisms that control the initiation of the different task-specific computations at the appropriate time. This is particularly difficult in dynamic environments, like driving, where many aspects of the visual input may be unpredictable. We therefore examined drivers' abilities to detect Stop signs in a virtual environment when the signs were visible for restricted periods of time. Detection performance is heavily modulated both by the instructions and the local visual context. This suggests that visibility of the signs requires active search, and that the frequency of this search is influenced by learnt knowledge of the probabilistic structure of the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3535-3545
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Issue number25-26
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Saccades

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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