The effect of beat frequency on eye movements during free viewing

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External periodic stimuli entrain brain oscillations and affect perception and attention. It has been shown that background music can change oculomotor behavior and facilitate detection of visual objects occurring on the musical beat. However, whether musical beats in different tempi modulate information sampling differently during natural viewing remains to be explored. Here we addressed this question by investigating how listening to naturalistic drum grooves in two different tempi affects eye movements of participants viewing natural scenes on a computer screen. We found that the beat frequency of the drum grooves modulated the rate of eye movements: fixation durations were increased at the lower beat frequency (1.7 Hz) as compared to the higher beat frequency (2.4 Hz) and no music conditions. Correspondingly, estimated visual sampling frequency decreased as fixation durations increased with lower beat frequency. These results imply that slow musical beats can retard sampling of visual information during natural viewing by increasing fixation durations.

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