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Vision moves to upper half first: Study

Posted on Apr 23 2014 | IANS

Toronto, April 23 : Know where people concentrate their attention at first glance? The upper portion of any sign, billboard or information.

According to a study from North Carolina (NC) State University and University of Toronto, people pay more attention to the upper half of their field of vision - a finding which could have ramifications for everything from traffic signs to software interface design.

"It, however, does not mean people do not pay attention to the lower field of vision but they were demonstrably better at paying attention to the upper field," explained lead author Jing Feng, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State.

Specifically, we tested people's ability to quickly identify a target amidst visual clutter, Feng added.

During the study, researchers had participants fix their eyes at the centre of a computer screen, and then flashed a target and distracting symbols onto the screen for 10 to 80 milliseconds.

The screen was then replaced by an unconnected "mask" image to disrupt their train of thought.

Participants were asked to indicate where the target had been located on the screen.

Researchers found that people were seven percent better at finding the target when it was located in the upper half of the screen.

"A difference of 7 percent could make a significant difference for technologies that are safety-related or that we interact with on a regular basis," Feng noted.

For example, this could make a difference in determining where to locate traffic signs to make them more noticeable to drivers, or where to place important information on a website to highlight that information for users.

The paper was published online in the open-access journal i-Perception.

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