Current Research Interests


Scene Gist

We are interested in how quickly people are able to grasp the scene they are viewing when that scene is presented very quickly. Manipulating the scene properties, we are able to investigate which visual factors are important in determining a scene's gist. We use the Contextual Bias Paradigm (below) as a way of getting at whether a scene is "understood" without having to ask participants for the name of a scene or to verify the scene name.

Contextual Bias Paradigm

Shields, L., Pereira, E.J. & Castelhano, M.S. (in revision). Getting the Gist: Foveal and Parafoveal contributions to the Formation.

Castelhano, M.S., & Henderson, J.M. (2008). The Influence of Color on Perception of Scene Gist. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34(3), 660-675.

Eye Movements in Scenes

By examinig people's eye movements as they look around a scene, we can investigate what information is prioritized for further visual processing.

Of course, the information prioritized has a lot to do with what the task is, among other things. So by manipulating task, as well as other factors, we can have a better understanding of gaze control mechanisms, attention and their interaction with memory.

Task effects on Eye Movement Control

Castelhano, M.S., Mack, M., & Henderson, J.M. (2009). Viewing Task Influences Eye Movements during Active Scene Perception. Journal of Vision, 9(3):6, 1-15.

Rayner, K., Castelhano, M.S., & Yang, J. (2009). Eye Movements when Looking at Unusual/Weird Scenes: Are there Cultural Differences? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 35, 254-259. .

Castelhano, M.S. & Henderson, J.M. (2008). Stable Individual Differences across Images in Human Saccadic Eye Movements. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(1), 1-14.

Torralba, A., Oliva, A., Castelhano, M.S., & Henderson, J.M. (2006). Contextual guidance of eye movements and attention in real-world scenes: the role of global features in object search. Psychological Review, 113, 766-786.

Scene Gist and Gaze Control

By combining our interest in the fast processing of scenes with our interest in gaze control, we are also investigating how the first glance at a scene influences later processing on it. We use the Flash Preview-Moving Winfow paradigm to examine these types of questions about the interaction between scene gist and eye movements.

Flash Preview-Moving Window Paradigm

Pereira, E.J., & Castelhano, M.S. (2014). Gaze Guidance in Scenes: The Interaction of Scene Context and Object Content Information in the Periphery. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 40(5), 2056-2072.

Castelhano, M.S. & Heaven, C. (2011). Scene Context influences without Scene Gist: Eye movements Guided by Spatial Associations in Visual Search. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18(5), 890-896.

Castelhano, M.S., & Heaven, C. (2010). The Relative Contribution of Scene Context and Target Features to Visual Search in Real-world Scenes. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72(5), 1283-1297.

Castelhano, M.S., & Henderson, J.M. (2007). Initial Scene Representations Facilitate Eye Movement Guidance in Visual Search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33(4), 753-763.

Extraction of Spatial Layout in Scene Perception

One important aspect of understanding a scene is understanding its spatial layout. We are interested in how our visual system represents the space of a scene. We use computer-generated images to get at questions of how different viewpoints of a scene are processed and integrated.

Priming of Spatial Layout Across Changes in Viewpoint

Castelhano, M.S., & Pollatsek, A (2010). Extrapolating Spatial Layout in Scene Representations. Memory & Cognition, 38 (8), 1018-1025.

Castelhano, M.S., Pollatsek, A., & Rayner, K. (2009). Integration of multiple views of scenes. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 71, 490-502.

Attention and Visual Search

In addition to studying visual processes in scenes, we are intersted in deciphering the type of information (in scenes potentially) that can influence the deployment of attention. Visual search tasks allow us to manipulate various factors outside of any scene biases that naturally influence processing while viewing pictures. Combining these approaches we can get a better understanding of visual processing in general.

Typicality of Objects and Guidance of Attention during Search

Castelhano, M.S., Pollatsek, A., & Cave, K. (2008). Typicality Aids Search for an Unspecified Target, but Only in Identification and not in Attentional Guidance. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(4), 795-801.


Much of the research on eye movement control and its relation to on-going cognitive processes have been done in reading. Reading offers a very structured visual input that always has a very clear task (to comprehend the text). As a result, this research offers a number of insights into the architecture and different processes of the visual system.

Perceptual Span in Younger and Older Adults

Rayner, K., Yang, J., Castelhano, M.S., & Liversedge, S. (2011). Eye Movements of Older and Younger Readers when Reading Disappearing Text. Psychology and Aging, 26(1), 214-223.

Rayner, K., Castelhano, M.S., & Yang, J. (2010). Preview Benefit during Eye Fixations in Reading for Older and Younger Readers. Psychology and Aging, 25(3), 714-718.

Rayner, K., Castelhano, M.S., & Yang, J. (2009). Eye Movements and the Perceptual Span in Older and Younger Readers. Psychology and Aging, 24(3), 755-760.