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Visual Attention Paper Tops a Google Classics List

A paper co-authored by John Henderson, a professor in the Department of Psychology and at the Center for Mind and Brain, tops a Google Scholar list of most-cited articles from 2006 in the field of cognitive science.

“Contextual guidance of eye movements and attention in real-world scenes: The role of global features in object search,” published in October 2006 in the journal Psychological Review, has been cited in 1,353 other scholarly articles, according to the new “Classic Papers” collection released by Google on June 14.

In their article, Henderson and colleagues at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, reported on their research into how the human brain makes sense of what the eyes see. 

“We humans can only attend to a fraction of the flood of visual stimulation available at any given time,” Henderson said. “How does the brain decide what to ignore and what to attend to from moment to moment?

“Our paper investigated this question using a combination of eyetracking and computer modeling,” he said. “Our results argued that the brain combines the current visual stimulus with prior knowledge about the world (for example, where a searched-for object is likely to be found) to intelligently guide attention. Our “contextual guidance” model provided investigators with a way to think about how the brain does this within a statistical (Bayesian) framework.”

The paper has been widely cited in the cognitive science fields of psychology, computer science, artificial intelligence and neuroscience, as well as in areas as far-flung as film studies and consumer behavior.

— Kathleen Holder