Localization of shapes: eye movements and perception compared

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The localization of spatially extended objects is thought to be based on the computation of a default reference position, such as the center of gravity. This position can serve as the goal point for a saccade, a locus for fixation, or the reference for perceptual localization. We compared perceptual and saccadic localization for non-convex shapes where the center of gravity (COG) was located outside the boundary of the shape and did not coincide with any prominent perceptual features. The landing positions of single saccades made to the shape, as well as the preferred loci for fixation, were near the center of gravity, although local features such as part boundaries were influential. Perceptual alignment positions were also close to the center of gravity, but showed configural effects that did not influence either saccades or fixation. Saccades made in a more naturalistic sequential scanning task landed near the center of gravity with a considerably higher degree of accuracy (mean error <4% of saccade size) and showed no effects of local features, constituent parts, or stimulus configuration. We conclude that perceptual and oculomotor localization is based on the computation of a precise central reference position, which coincides with the center of gravity in sequential scanning. The saliency of the center of gravity, relative to other prominent visual features, can depend on the specific localization task or the relative configuration of elements. Sequential scanning, the more natural of the saccadic tasks, may provide a better way to evaluate the "default" reference position for localization. The fact that the reference position used in both oculomotor and perceptual tasks fell outside the boundary of the shapes supports the importance of spatial pooling, in contrast to local features, in object localization. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1637-1653
Number of pages17
JournalVision Research
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


  • saccadic eye movements
  • localization
  • perceptual localization
  • center-of-gravity
  • shape perception


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