Body Posture Differentially Impacts on Visual Attention Towards Tool, Graspable, and Non-Graspable Objects

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Abstract

Viewed objects have been shown to afford suitable actions, even in the absence of any intention to act. However, little is known as to whether gaze behavior (i.e., the way we simply look at objects) is sensitive to action afforded by the seen object and how our actual motor possibilities affect this behavior. We recorded participants’ eye movements during the observation of tools, graspable and ungraspable objects, while their hands were either freely resting on the table or tied behind their back. The effects of the observed object and hand posture on gaze behavior were measured by comparing the actual fixation distribution with that predicted by 2 widely supported models of visual attention, namely the Graph-Based Visual Saliency and the Adaptive Whitening Salience models. Results showed that saliency models did not accurately predict participants’ fixation distributions for tools. Indeed, participants mostly fixated the action-related, functional part of the tools, regardless of its visual saliency. Critically, the restriction of the participants’ action possibility led to a significant reduction of this effect and significantly improved the model prediction of the participants’ gaze behavior. We suggest, first, that action-relevant object information at least in part guides gaze behavior. Second, postural information interacts with visual information to the generation of priority maps of fixation behavior. We support the view that the kind of information we access from the environment is constrained by our readiness to act.

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