The role of object affordances and center of gravity in eye movements toward isolated daily-life objects


  • van der Linden Lotje
  • Mathôt Sebastiaan
  • Vitu Françoise


  • Saccadic landing positions
  • Refixations
  • Center of gravity
  • Object affordances
  • Visuospatial attention

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The purpose of the current study was to investigate to what extent low-level versus high-level effects determine where the eyes land on isolated daily-life objects. We operationalized low-level effects as eye movements toward an object's center of gravity (CoG) or the absolute object center (OC) and high-level effects as visuomotor priming by object affordances. In two experiments, we asked participants to make saccades toward peripherally presented photographs of graspable objects (e.g., a hammer) and to either categorize them (Experiment 1) or to discriminate them from visually matched nonobjects (Experiment 2). Objects were rotated such that their graspable part (e.g., the hammer's handle) pointed toward either the left or the right whereas their action-performing part (e.g., the hammer's head) pointed toward the other side. We found that early-triggered saccades were neither biased toward the object's graspable part nor toward its action-performing part. Instead, participants' eyes landed near the CoG/OC. Only longer-latency initial saccades and refixations were subject to high-level influences, being significantly biased toward the object's action-performing part. Our comparison with eye movements toward visually matched nonobjects revealed that the latter was not merely the consequence of a low-level effect of shape, texture, asymmetry, or saliency. Instead, we interpret it as a higher-level, object-based affordance effect that requires time, and to some extent also foveation, in order to build up and to overcome default saccadic-programming mechanisms.

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