Finding faces, animals, and vehicles in far peripheral vision

J Vis. 2016 Jan 1;16(2):10. doi: 10.1167/16.2.10.


Neuroimaging studies have shown that faces exhibit a central visual field bias, as compared to buildings and scenes. With a saccadic choice task, Crouzet, Kirchner, and Thorpe (2010) demonstrated a speed advantage for the detection of faces with stimuli located 8° from fixation. We used the same paradigm to examine whether the face advantage, relative to other categories (animals and vehicles), extends across the whole visual field (from 10° to 80° eccentricity) or whether it is limited to the central visual field. Pairs of photographs of natural scenes (a target and a distractor) were displayed simultaneously left and right of central fixation for 1s on a panoramic screen. Participants were asked to saccade to a target stimulus (faces, animals, or vehicles). The distractors were images corresponding to the two other categories. Eye movements were recorded with a head-mounted eye tracker. Only the first saccade was measured. Experiment 1 showed that (a) in terms of speed of categorization, faces maintain their advantage over animals and vehicles across the whole visual field, up to 80° and (b) even in crowded conditions (an object embedded in a scene), performance was above chance for the three categories of stimuli at 80° eccentricity. Experiment 2 showed that, when compared to another category with a high degree of within category structural similarity (cars), faces keep their advantage at all eccentricities. These results suggest that the bias for faces is not limited to the central visual field, at least in a categorization task.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Automobiles*
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Young Adult