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Journal Article

Do people "pop out"?


Mayer,  Katja M.
Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, United Kingdom;
Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Mayer, K. M., Vuong, Q. C., & Thornton, I. M. (2015). Do people "pop out"? PLoS One, 10(10): e0139618. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139618.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-A7EF-9
The human body is a highly familiar and socially very important object. Does this mean that the human body has a special status with respect to visual attention? In the current paper we tested whether people in natural scenes attract attention and “pop out” or, alternatively, are at least searched for more efficiently than targets of another category (machines). Observers in our study searched a visual array for dynamic or static scenes containing humans amidst scenes containing machines and vice versa. The arrays consisted of 2, 4, 6 or 8 scenes arranged in a circular array, with targets being present or absent. Search times increased with set size for dynamic and static human and machine targets, arguing against pop out. However, search for human targets was more efficient than for machine targets as indicated by shallower search slopes for human targets. Eye tracking further revealed that observers made more first fixations to human than to machine targets and that their on-target fixation durations were shorter for human compared to machine targets. In summary, our results suggest that searching for people in natural scenes is more efficient than searching for other categories even though people do not pop out.