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Queen's University

Research Topics Currently Being Investigated

For reprints of the articles mentioned below, please follow the publications link.

Scene Gist

We are interested in how quickly people are able to grasp the scene they are viewing when that scene is presented very quickly.


Manipulating the scene properties, we are able to investigate which visual factors are important in determining a scene's gist. We use the Contextual Bias Paradigm as a way of getting at whether a scene is "understood" without having to ask participants for the name of a scene or to verify the scene name.

Contextual Bias Paradigm

Contextual Bias Paradigm Figure

Castelhano, M.S., & Henderson, J.M. (2008). The Influence of Color on Perception of Scene Gist. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34(3), 660-675.

Eye Movements in Scenes

By examining people's eye movements as they look around a scene, we can investigate what information is prioritized for further visual processing.

This prioritized information has a lot to do with what the task is, among a number of other things. So by manipulating task, as well as other factors, we can have a better understanding of gaze control mechanisms, attention, and their interaction with memory.

Task effects on Eye Movement ControlTask Effects on Eye Movement Control Figure

Castelhano, M.S., Mack, M., & Henderson, J.M. (under review). Viewing Task Influences Eye Movements during Active Scene Perception.

Rayner, K., Castelhano, M.S., & Yang, J. (in press). Eye Movements when Looking at Unusual/Weird Scenes: Are there Cultural Differences? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition.

Scene Gist and Gaze Control

By combining our interest in the fast processing of scenes with our interest in gaze control, we are also investigating how the first glance at a scene influences later processing on it.

We use the Flash Preview-Moving Window paradigm to examine these types of questions about the interaction between scene gist and eye movements.

Flash Preview-Moving Window Paradigm

Flash Preview-Moving Window Paradigm Figure

Castelhano, M.S., & Henderson, J.M. (2007). Initial Scene Representations Facilitate Eye Movement Guidance in Visual Search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33(4), 753-763.

Castelhano, M.S. (February, 2008). Representing natural, real-world scenes: Exploring scene gist and its effect on eye movements. Presented at the Lake Ontario Visionary Establishment Annual Meeting, Niagara Falls, Canada.

Extraction of Spatial Layout in Scene Perception

An important aspect of understanding a scene is understanding its spatial layout, and we are interested in how our visual system represents the space of a scene.

We use computer-generated images to get at questions of how different viewpoints of a scene are processed and integrated.

Priming of Spatial Layout Across Changes in Viewpoint

Spatial Layout 20_sm Figure Spatial Layout 40_sm Figure

Castelhano, M.S., Pollatsek, A., & Rayner, K. (under review). Memory across Viewpoints in Naturalistic Scenes.

Castelhano, M.S. & Pollatsek, A. (July, 2008). Extraction of 3-D information in Scenes. Paper presented at the XXIX International Congress of Psychology, Berlin, Germany.

Attention and Visual Search

In addition to studying visual processes in scenes, we are intersted in deciphering the type of information (in potential scenes) that can influence the deployment of attention.

Visual search tasks allow us to manipulate various factors outside of any scene biases that naturally influence processing while viewing pictures. Combining these approaches we can get a better understanding of visual processing in general.

Typicality of Objects and Guidance of Attention during Search

Typicality of Objects and Guidance of Attention during Search

Castelhano, M.S., Pollatsek, A., & Cave, K. (2008). Typicality Aids Search for an Unspecified Target, but Only in Identification and not in Attentional Guidance. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(4), 795-801.


Much of the research on eye movement control and its relation to on-going cognitive processes have been done in reading. Reading offers a very structured visual input that always has a very clear task: comprehension.

As a result, this research offers a number of insights into the architecture and different processes of the visual system.

Perceptual Span in Younger and Older Adults

Perceptual Span in Younger and Older Adults

 Rayner, K., Castelhano, M.S., & Yang, J. (in press). Eye movements and the Perceptual Span in Older and Younger Readers. Psychology and Aging.

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