Predicting Eye Fixations on Complex Visual Stimuli Using Local Symmetry

Gert Kootstra*, Bart de Boer, Lambert R.B. Schomaker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Most bottom-up models that predict human eye fixations are based on contrast features. The saliency model of Itti, Koch and Niebur is an example of such contrast-saliency models. Although the model has been successfully compared to human eye fixations, we show that it lacks preciseness in the prediction of fixations on mirror-symmetrical forms. The contrast model gives high response at the borders, whereas human observers consistently look at the symmetrical center of these forms. We propose a saliency model that predicts eye fixations using local mirror symmetry. To test the model, we performed an eye-tracking experiment with participants viewing complex photographic images and compared the data with our symmetry model and the contrast model. The results show that our symmetry model predicts human eye fixations significantly better on a wide variety of images including many that are not selected for their symmetrical content. Moreover, our results show that especially early fixations are on highly symmetrical areas of the images. We conclude that symmetry is a strong predictor of human eye fixations and that it can be used as a predictor of the order of fixation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-240
Number of pages18
JournalCognitive Computation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Covert visual attention
  • Eye movements
  • Local symmetry
  • Saliency models

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