Differential Contribution of Low- and High-level Image Content to Eye Movements in Monkeys and Humans

Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jan 1;27(1):279-293. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw399.


Oculomotor selection exerts a fundamental impact on our experience of the environment. To better understand the underlying principles, researchers typically rely on behavioral data from humans, and electrophysiological recordings in macaque monkeys. This approach rests on the assumption that the same selection processes are at play in both species. To test this assumption, we compared the viewing behavior of 106 humans and 11 macaques in an unconstrained free-viewing task. Our data-driven clustering analyses revealed distinct human and macaque clusters, indicating species-specific selection strategies. Yet, cross-species predictions were found to be above chance, indicating some level of shared behavior. Analyses relying on computational models of visual saliency indicate that such cross-species commonalities in free viewing are largely due to similar low-level selection mechanisms, with only a small contribution by shared higher level selection mechanisms and with consistent viewing behavior of monkeys being a subset of the consistent viewing behavior of humans.

Keywords: human macaque comparison; low-level salience; oculomotor control; overt visual attention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Species Specificity*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult