Scan patterns when viewing natural scenes: Emotion, complexity, and repetition

Margaret M. Bradley, Petra Houbova, Laura Miccoli, Vincent D. Costa, Peter J. Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Eye movements were monitored during picture viewing, and effects of hedonic content, perceptual composition, and repetition on scanning assessed. In Experiment 1, emotional and neutral pictures that were figure-ground compositions or more complex scenes were presented for a 6-s free viewing period. Viewing emotional pictures or complex scenes prompted more fixations and broader scanning of the visual array, compared to neutral pictures or simple figure-ground compositions. Effects of emotion and composition were independent, supporting the hypothesis that these oculomotor indices reflect enhanced information seeking. Experiment 2 tested an orienting hypothesis by repeatedly presenting the same pictures. Although repetition altered specific scan patterns, emotional, compared to neutral, picture viewing continued to prompt oculomotor differences, suggesting that motivationally relevant cues enhance information seeking in appetitive and defensive contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1544-1553
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion
  • Eye movements
  • Normal volunteers
  • Oculomotor
  • Orienting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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