Through the eyes of the expert: Evaluating holistic processing in architects through gaze-contingent viewing

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Studies in the psychology of visual expertise have tended to focus on a limited set of expert domains, such as radiology and athletics. Conclusions drawn from these data indicate that experts use parafoveal vision to process images holistically. In this study, we examined a novel, as-of-yet-unstudied class of visual experts—architects—expecting similar results. However, the results indicate that architects, though visual experts, may not employ the holistic processing strategy observed in their previously studied counterparts. Participants (n = 48, 24 architects, 24 naïve) were asked to find targets in chest radiographs and perspective images. All images were presented in both gaze-contingent and normal viewing conditions. Consistent with a holistic processing model, we expected two results: (1) architects would display a greater difference in saccadic amplitude between the gaze- contingent and normal conditions, and (2) architects would spend less time per search than an undergraduate control group. We found that the architects were more accurate in the perspectival task, but they took more time and displayed a lower difference in saccadic amplitude than the controls. Our research indicates a disjunctive conclusion. Either architects are simply different kinds of visual experts than those previously studied, or we have generated a task that employs visual expertise without holistic processing. Our data suggest a healthy skepticism for across-the-board inferences collected from a single domain of expertise to the nature of visual expertise generally. More work is needed to determine whether holism is a feature of all visual expertise.
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Archival date: 2021-02-02
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