This project is completed. For a further research on similar topics see the projects Relation between eye movements and memory and Multimodality and timing: A study of audio description.

Project members:

Jana Holsanova, Roger Johansson, Kenneth Holmqvist.

This project focuses on our ability to internally simulate what it would be like to experience objects, scenes and events in the absence of direct sensory stimulation. Although the “visual” impressions we derive from such acts may seem less detailed and appear to fade faster than when we look at things in the “real” world, we still experience them as quite realistic.

In the present project, a novel eye-tracking method has been developed to study such perceptual simulations in space and over time. In a series of studies we have shown that eye movements spontaneously occur when a scene is recalled from memory and that such eye movements closely correspond to spatial relationships and content from the original scene. Remarkably, it also appears that such eye movements to “nothing” are not merely a fascinating epiphenomenon but indeed play an active role in the internal simulations that constitute our mental-imagery experiences.

Example of eye movement patterns for one and the same person after she has inspected a picture (left) and after she has orally described the same picture looking at a blank screen (right).

Specific questions that we target in this project are: 1) do such eye movements play an active and functional role when scenes are visualized and constructed from memory; 2) do these eye movements to ‘nothing’ facilitate memory retrieval;  3) how are these eye movements related to individual differences in imagery capabilities; 4) how can this methodology of tracking the mind’s eye be developed to investigate how, when and why we use mental imagery in thinking, reasoning and communication.

Publications:

Johansson, R. (2013). Tracking the mind’s eye: Eye movements during mental imagery and memory retireval. Doctoral dissertation. Lund University.

Johansson, R., Holsanova, J., & Holmqvist, K. (2013). Using Eye Movements and Spoken Discourse as Windows to Inner Space. In C. Paradis, J. Hudson,  & U. Magnusson. (Eds.). The Construal of Spatial Meaning: Windows into Conceptual Space, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 9-28.

Johansson, R., Holsanova, J., Dewhurst, R., & Holmqvist K. (2012). Eye movements during scene recollection have a functional role, but they are not reinstatements of those produced during encoding. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 38(5), 1289-1314.

Dewhurst, R., Nyström, M., Jarodzka, H., Foulsham, T., Johansson R., & Holmqvist, K. (2012). It depends on how you look at it: Scanpath comparison in multiple dimensions with MultiMatch, a vector-based approach. Behavior Research Methods. 44(4), 1079-1100.

Johansson, R., Holsanova, J., & Holmqvist, K. (2011). The dispersion of eye movements during visual imagery is related to individual differences in spatial imagery ability. In L. Carlson, C. Hölscher, & T. Shipley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1200-1205). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Johansson, R. (2011). Tracking the mind’s eye. Licentiate dissertation. Lund University.

Johansson, R., Holsanova, J., & Holmqvist, K. (2010). Eye movements during mental imagery are not reenactments of perception. In: Ohlsson, Stellan & Catrambone, Richard (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1968-1973). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.