Genetics and Looking (11-06-17)

Kennedy and his team have found that how we look at something, literally, is influenced by our genes.  Designers can use what these researchers have learned to better understand curious research results, for example.  The Kennedy-lead group reports that “Where one looks within their environment constrains one’s visual experiences, directly affects cognitive, emotional, and social processing . . . influences learning opportunities . . . 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 [looked at] . . . . large individual differences are also present . . . 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 . . . one’s general tendency for visual exploration of scene content . . . of complex . . . scenes.”  The twins participating in this study were shown photographs of the sorts of scenes people might experience in daily life during the data collection process.  Half of these images had people in them, half did not; whether people were present or not did not significantly influence the information gathered.

Daniel Kennedy, Brian D’Onofrio, Patrick Quinn, Sven Boite, Paul Lichtenstein, and Terje Falck-Ytter. “Genetic Influence on Eye Movements to Complex Scenes at Short Timescales.”  Current Biology, in press.