Genetic Influence on Eye Movements to Complex Scenes at Short Timescales

Where one looks within their environment constrains one's visual experiences, directly affects cognitive, emotional, and social processing [1-4], influences learning opportunities [5], and ultimately shapes one's developmental path. While there is a high degree of similarity across individuals with regard to which features of a scene are fixated [6-8], large individual differences are also present, especially in disorders of development [9-13], and clarifying the origins of these differences is essential to understand the processes by which individuals develop within the complex environments in which they exist and interact. Toward this end, a recent paper [14] found that "social visual engagement"-namely, gaze to eyes and mouths of faces-is strongly influenced by genetic factors. However, whether genetic factors influence gaze to complex visual scenes more broadly, impacting how both social and non-social scene content are fixated, as well as general visual exploration strategies, has yet to be determined. Using a behavioral genetic approach and eye tracking data from a large sample of 11-year-old human twins (233 same-sex twin pairs; 51% monozygotic, 49% dizygotic), we demonstrate that genetic factors do indeed contribute strongly to eye movement patterns, influencing both one's general tendency for visual exploration of scene content, as well as the precise moment-to-moment spatiotemporal pattern of fixations during viewing of complex social and non-social scenes alike. This study adds to a now growing set of results that together illustrate how genetics may broadly influence the process by which individuals actively shape and create their own visual experiences.

Publication Date:
Nov 09 2017
Date Submitted:
Nov 21 2018
Current biology : CB
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 Record created 2018-11-21, last modified 2019-04-03

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