You think you know where you looked? You better look again

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2016 Oct;42(10):1477-81. doi: 10.1037/xhp0000264.


People are surprisingly bad at knowing where they have looked in a scene. We tested participants' ability to recall their own eye movements in 2 experiments using natural or artificial scenes. In each experiment, participants performed a change-detection (Exp.1) or search (Exp.2) task. On 25% of trials, after 3 seconds of viewing the scene, participants were asked to indicate where they thought they had just fixated. They responded by making mouse clicks on 12 locations in the unchanged scene. After 135 trials, observers saw 10 new scenes and were asked to put 12 clicks where they thought someone else would have looked. Although observers located their own fixations more successfully than a random model, their performance was no better than when they were guessing someone else's fixations. Performance with artificial scenes was worse, though judging one's own fixations was slightly superior. Even after repeating the fixation-location task on 30 scenes immediately after scene viewing, performance was far from the prediction of an ideal observer. Memory for our own fixation locations appears to add next to nothing beyond what common sense tells us about the likely fixations of others. These results have important implications for socially important visual search tasks. For example, a radiologist might think he has looked at "everything" in an image, but eye tracking data suggest that this is not so. Such shortcomings might be avoided by providing observers with better insights of where they have looked. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metacognition / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Young Adult