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2024 Speaker Series

February 9, 2024

Attentional Control in Natural Vision

1:00-2:00 PM MST
Email Program Specialist Marisa DeLeon for Zoom passcode:

Dr. Mary Hayhoe
Director of the Center for Perceptual Systems, University of Texas Austin

Abstract: A defining feature of the human visual system is that visual computations are task specific and linked to the location of gaze. This allows considerable computational efficiency. It also introduces the problem of what controls these computations. We think of this as the control of attention and gaze. In standard experimental paradigms, the experimental structure controls where human subjects attend. This is very different from vision in the natural world, where the subject determines the locus of attention. I will describe what is known about allocation of attention and control of gaze in natural visually-guided behavior. It has become clear that natural behavior has many regularities. We can think of the goal of visual processing as selecting good actions that further the organism’s behavioral goals. These decisions are modulated by the neural reward machinery of the brain, are made in the context of an uncertain and time-varying world, and involve both planning and memory. These elements of sequential decisions can be well described by Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes and there have been recent attempts to model natural gaze sequences in this way. I will summarize some of these attempts.

Bio: Mary Hayhoe is Director of the Center for Perceptual Systems at the University of Texas Austin. She received her Ph D from the University of California at San Diego and was a member of the Center for Visual Sciences at the University of Rochester from 1984-2006, when she moved to UT. She been a leader in developing virtual environments and experimental paradigms for the investigation of natural visually guided behavior. She has expertise in human eye movements in natural environments, especially how gaze behavior relates to attention, working memory, and cognitive goals. She served on the Board of Directors of the Vision Sciences Society from 2011-2016 and was President in 2015. She is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Vision. She was the recipient of the Davida Teller Award from the Vision Sciences Society in 2017 and the Tillyer Medal from Optica (formerly Optical Society of America) in 2022.

photo: Mary Hayhoe