Visual attention

Visual system Attention Eye movement

The aim of this page is to briefly describe what is visual attention and how does it operate. 

A woman wearing Tobii Pro Glasses 2 looks at an advertisements.

Whenever we look at the world, we consciously or unconsciously focus on only a fraction of the total information that we could potentially process. In other words, we perform a perceptual selection process called attention. Visually, this is most commonly done by moving our eyes from one place of the visual field to another; this process is often referred to as a change in overt attention—our gaze follows our attention shift. Even though we prefer to move our eyes to shift our attention, we are also capable of shifting our mind’s attention to the peripheral areas of our visual field without eye movements. This

mechanism is called covert attention. Although we can use these two mechanisms separately they most frequently occur together. An example is when we are looking at a city landscape and we first use our covert attention to detect a shape or movement in our visual field that appears interesting and use our peripheral vision to roughly identify what it is. We then direct our gaze to that location allowing our brain to access more detailed information. Thus a shift of our overall attention is commonly initiated by our covert attention, quickly followed by a shift of our overt attention and the corresponding eye movements.

Related Articles

  • Why do our eyes move?

    The aim of this page is to give a brief introduction to the human visual system, and to briefly explain why we move our eyes and it's relevance to eye tracking. 

    Visual system Human eye Eye movement
  • Types of eye movements

    The aim of this page is top give a brief description of the different main types of eye movements and there function. 

    Visual system Human eye Eye movement
  • What does eye tracking data tell us?

    Eye tracking analysis is based on the important assumption that there is a relationship between fixations, our gaze and what we are thinking about. However, there are a few factors that need to be considered for this assumption to be true which will be discussed in this section. 

    Eye tracking Attention Gaze data