Preliminary Investigation of Visual Attention to Human Figures in Photographs: Potential Considerations for the Design of Aided AAC Visual Scene Displays PurposeMany individuals with complex communication needs may benefit from visual aided augmentative and alternative communication systems. In visual scene displays (VSDs), language concepts are embedded into a photograph of a naturalistic event. Humans play a central role in communication development and might be important elements in VSDs. However, many VSDs ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2011
Preliminary Investigation of Visual Attention to Human Figures in Photographs: Potential Considerations for the Design of Aided AAC Visual Scene Displays
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Krista M. Wilkinson
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Janice Light
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Correspondence to Krista M. Wilkinson: kmw22@psu.edu
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Katherine Hustad
    Associate Editor: Katherine Hustad×
Article Information
Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Language
Article   |   December 01, 2011
Preliminary Investigation of Visual Attention to Human Figures in Photographs: Potential Considerations for the Design of Aided AAC Visual Scene Displays
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2011, Vol. 54, 1644-1657. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0098)
History: Received April 12, 2010 , Revised November 1, 2010 , Accepted April 19, 2011
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2011, Vol. 54, 1644-1657. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0098)
History: Received April 12, 2010; Revised November 1, 2010; Accepted April 19, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 19

PurposeMany individuals with complex communication needs may benefit from visual aided augmentative and alternative communication systems. In visual scene displays (VSDs), language concepts are embedded into a photograph of a naturalistic event. Humans play a central role in communication development and might be important elements in VSDs. However, many VSDs omit human figures. In this study, the authors sought to describe the distribution of visual attention to humans in naturalistic scenes as compared with other elements.

MethodNineteen college students observed 8 photographs in which a human figure appeared near 1 or more items that might be expected to compete for visual attention (such as a Christmas tree or a table loaded with food). Eye-tracking technology allowed precise recording of participants' gaze. The fixation duration over a 7-s viewing period and latency to view elements in the photograph were measured.

ResultsParticipants fixated on the human figures more rapidly and for longer than expected based on the size of these figures, regardless of the other elements in the scene.

ConclusionsHuman figures attract attention in a photograph even when presented alongside other attractive distracters. Results suggest that humans may be a powerful means to attract visual attention to key elements in VSDs.

Acknowledgments
Parts of this work were presented as a symposium at the 2009 conference of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This research was supported in part through two grants from the following sources: the Communication Enhancement Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, a virtual research center that is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research under Grant H133E030018; and Grant P01 HD25995 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantees and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies. This research would not have been possible without the contributions of Kelly McStravock, Kaitlyn Fratantoni, and Jessie Miller, who helped with all aspects of data collection, coding, and analysis.
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