Using an oculomotor signature as an indicator of aesthetic preference

Tim Holmes, Johannes Zanker

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Eye-movements are strongly influenced by the task given to an observer. The immediacy of such eye-movements, which are difficult to control consciously, offers the potential to explore highly variable subjective evaluations, such as aesthetic preference, with reliable objective measures. We presented a variety of images in sets of 2, 4 or 8 items for different durations and analysed oculomotor statistics such as cumulative fixation duration, re-fixations and the sequence of fixations while participants searched for their preferred image, after which participants indicated their preference using a button press. The total amount of time spent looking at any image correlates with selection preference, and does so increasingly well with longer presentation duration. For short presentations the first and last fixations correlate better with image preference. All response measures become increasingly variable as the number and complexity of presented images are increased. A weighted combination of these measures can significantly improve the correlation with preference, suggesting a “signature” which could be used as a reliable indicator for task-free subjective evaluation of stimuli in visual psychophysics. Its role as an improved fitness function in visually driven evolutionary algorithms is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-439
Number of pages14
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Eye Movements
  • visual attention
  • aesthetics
  • eye-tracking device
  • Visual Perception

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