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Study: Your Eyes Are Drawn to What’s Meaningful, Not to What “Sticks Out”
A new study overturns the conventional thinking about how we focus our visual attention.
Imagine that moment right as you’re viewing a photo you’ve never seen before: How do your eyes go about choosing which parts of the image to look at first?
The leading theory in attention studies says that our eyes are drawn to things that are visually salient — or, those that “stick out” to us. However, a new study from UC Davis overturns that model by showing that “meaning” seems to be the primary guider of visual attention, while salience plays a secondary role.
“A lot of people will have to rethink things,” said John Henderson, professor at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, who led the research. “The saliency hypothesis really is the dominant view.”
The findings, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, come from a study that tracked the eye movements of people viewing images of real-world scenes — a kitchen, a boat dock, a messy room — for the first time.
To define which parts of the images were “meaningful,” researchers divided the images into circular overlapping tiles and submitted them individually to the online crowd-sourcing service Mechanical Turk, where users rated the tiles for meaning. For example, a tile showing only part of a window curtain would be rated low in meaning by users, while one showing a painting of purple grapes would be rated higher.
Rating the meaning of the tiles effectively turned the images into “meaning maps,” as researchers dubbed them. Salience was also mapped out, though by a much easier process — a computer program measured each part of the images for relative contrast and brightness.
The question now was: which of these maps would best predict the eye movements of the participants? To find out, researchers showed participants each image for 12 seconds and recorded the points at which they fixated their vision.
Real-world images alongside data representations of eye tracking (center left), meaning (center right) and salience (far right).
Results showed that “meaning was better able than visual salience to account for the guidance of attention through real-world scenes,” even though salience often overlapped with meaning.
So, why are our eyes drawn to meaning over what's bright and shiny? The researchers suggest the reason might be that, when viewing real-world scenes, we use knowledge representations to help us prioritize where to look. For example, when we see a photo of a kitchen, we have a cognitive model that tells us what a kitchen is and where we might find meaning in that photo — among the objects by the sink, for instance, and not necessarily in the brightly colored curtains.
Henderson and postdoctoral researcher Taylor Hayes said they don't yet have solid data on what exactly constitutes meaning in visual information. But they suggest their findings could have important implications for computer vision, such as training algorithms to scan security footage or identify and caption photos online.
On a broader level, the findings seem to echo a claim made by the phenomenological psychologist Ludwig Binswanger in his book “Being in the World”:
What we perceive are “first and foremost” not impressions of taste, tone, smell or touch, not even things or objects, but rather, meanings.
Binswanger essentially argues that we perceive the world with meaning detection before object recognition. This order of perception could be advantageous from an evolutionary perspective because determining the meaning of something is often more relevant than recognizing its exact nature. In other words, if you're in the jungle and you spot a tiger rushing toward you, the first thought you want to have is danger, not necessarily that's a female Bengal tiger.
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Humans are particularly prone to shiver when a group does or thinks the same thing at the same time.
A few years ago, I proposed that the feeling of cold in one's spine, while for example watching a film or listening to music, corresponds to an event when our vital need for cognition is satisfied.
Certain colors are globally linked to certain feelings, the study reveals.
- Color psychology is often used in marketing to alter your perception of products and services.
- Various studies and experiments across multiple years have given us more insight into the link between personality and color.
- The results of a new study spanning 6 continents (30 nations) shows universal correlations between colors and emotions around the globe.
The root of color psychology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9e40cf62fa8922fcca6c57e2fcb215b6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OM4fXB23pCQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There is a very likely chance you've even been "fooled" by color marketing in the past, or you've chosen one product over another subconsciously due to colors that were designed to influence your emotions.<br></p><p>Companies that want to be known for being dependable often use blue in their logos, for example (Dell, HP, IBM). Companies that want to be perceived as fun and exciting go for a splash of orange (Fanta, Nickelodeon, even Amazon). Green is associated with natural, peaceful emotions and is often used by companies like Whole Foods and Tropicana. </p><p><strong>Your favorite color says a lot about your personality. </strong></p><p>Various studies and experiments across multiple years (<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49595886_Personality_Traits_and_Colour_Preferences" target="_blank">2010</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jopy.12087" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2014</a>, <a href="http://oaji.net/articles/2015/1170-1448038739.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2015</a>, and more recently in <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824#modern-research-on-color-psychology" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019</a>) have given us more insight into the link between your personality and your favorite color.</p><p>Red, for example, is considered a bold color and is associated with feelings such as excitement, passion, anger, danger, energy, and love. The personality traits of this color might be someone who is bold, a little impulsive, and who loves adventure. </p><p>Orange, on the other hand, is considered representative of creativity, happiness, and freedom. The personality traits of this color can be fun, playful, cheerful, nurturing, and productive. Read more about color psychology and personalities <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/color-personality-psychology?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2" target="_self">here</a>.</p>
Study reveals which colors best suit which emotions around the globe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYzMTk5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODc4OTg5OH0.bY-pu-MFNivdJLDJuBp9TBKrhwuy7hngUa1aIWxQMVw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C93%2C0%2C94&height=700" id="33fff" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1a5d7bb00dac94bd6201616789fb4882" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of color psychology how colors make us feel color emotions" />
Certain colors are globally ties to certain emotions, the study reveals.
Image by agsandrew on Shutterstock<p>In this particular survey, participants were asked to fill out an online questionnaire which involved assigning 20 emotions to 12 different color terms. They were also asked to specify the intensity with which they associated the color term with the emotion.</p><p><strong>Certain colors are globally linked to certain emotions, the study reveals.</strong></p><p>The results of this study showed a few definite correlations between colors and emotions throughout the globe. Red, for example, is the only color that is strongly associated with both negative (anger) and positive (love) feelings. Brown, on the other end of the spectrum, is the color that triggers the fewest emotions globally.<br></p><p>The color white is closely associated with sadness in China, while purple is what is closely associated with sadness in Greece. This can be traced back to the roots of each culture, with white being worn at funerals in China and dark purple being the Greek Orthodox Church's color of mourning. </p><p>Yellow is more associated with joy, specifically in countries that see less sunshine. Meanwhile, its association with joy is weaker in areas that have greater exposure to sunshine. </p><p><a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200910150247.htm" target="_blank">According to Dr. Oberfeld-Twistel</a>, it is difficult to say exactly what the causes for global similarities and differences are. "There is a range of possible influencing factors: language, culture, religion, climate, the history of human development, the human perceptual system."</p>