Attention Switching During Scene Perception: How Goals Influence the Time Course of Eye Movements Across Advertisements

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Eye movements across advertisements express a temporal pattern of bursts of respectively relatively short and long saccades, and this pattern is systematically influenced by activated scene perception goals. This was revealed by a continuous-time hidden Markov model applied to eye movements of 220 participants exposed to 17 ads under a free-viewing condition, and a scene-learning goal (ad memorization), a scene-evaluation goal (ad appreciation), a target-learning goal (product learning), or a target-evaluation goal (product evaluation). The model reflects how attention switches between two states—local and global—expressed in saccades of shorter and longer amplitude on a spatial grid with 48 cells overlaid on the ads. During the 5- to 6-s duration of self-controlled exposure to ads in the magazine context, attention predominantly started in the local state and ended in the global state, and rapidly switched about 5 times between states. The duration of the local attention state was much longer than the duration of the global state. Goals affected the frequency of switching between attention statesand the duration of the local, but not of the global, state.

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