Thursday, October 2, 2014

Brain Activity During Eye Movements

French philosopher Henri Bergson once said: "The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." Psychologist Martin Rolfs has studied what happens in the brain when the eyes jump from one subject to another in the rapid eye movements called saccades.

Martin Rolfs et al, from Nature
These saccades happen largely unconsciously, about three times each second. Before each saccade, our visual system anticipates where it's going to jump next. A small part of our attention is distributed to possible future targets. 

The act of anticipation helps stabilize the image when it appears after the jump. During the moment of anticipation, the brain is beginning to form "theories" of what it's going to see.

Artists creating optical illusions enjoy experimenting with this dynamic of our perception, playing our fovea (the detailed center of visual attention) against our peripheral retina. 

How does this affect us as picture makers? It's important to know that the viewer is interpreting your image not only with their fovea , but also with their peripheral attention, which responds to broader cues. That's why it's so important to step back, squint, look in the mirror, and try to regard your composition from a distance, so that it will read well peripherally, too.

Science Friday video about Martin Rolfs' work


krystal said...

Cool! I read Nature, also. NASA tech briefs and Futurity are great, also. Inhabitat is great, also. Some AMAZING stuff going on right now every day in the tech/design world. GO SCIENCE AND ART!!!! :)

Unknown said...

Creative image , Basically to attract people towards image it should be different something which surprise their
Nerves. that's why Movies like Avatar make you feels Overwhelmed and mesmerized

jobs alert

Eric Rhoads said...

Fascinating James. Based on the eye map you posted, the positions are two of the golden spots one finds when dividing a canvas using the golden mean. The suggested or preferred spot usually is that upper right intersection. Might be interesting to tie the two sciences together.

James Gurney said...

Eric, the question of whether golden section spots attract the eye has fascinated me, too, so I asked an eyetracking company to analyze one of my paintings built on golden section principles. I was not expecting the results that I got:
See also "Mythbusting the Golden Mean"