Media Technology MSc

Effects of Intention on Visual Behavior (2008)

Effects of Intention on Visual Behavior

According to Perceptual Activity Theory, humans don’t store observations in a static mental data format, but optimize processes of perception in a continuous interrogation with their surroundings. So perception takes place through an active process of exploring an environment by directing the attention and examining with the eyes and perhaps with more parts of the body.

Discerning Beauty before its Source is Identified: The effects of Viewer Intention on Physical Visual Behavior

Student Karen Sam’s graduation research examines how viewer intention affects perception by comparing the influences of two different observer intentions on visual behavior: recognition and aesthetic appreciation. In her experiments, subjects looked at images with different levels of detail, while parameters such as the duration and velocity of visual focus were recorded. The subjects’ task alternated between appreciating an image and recognizing its content. The content of images and particularly the subject’s intention were expected to influence physical visual behavior. Results showed that recognition of image content required longer viewing duration than aesthetic appreciation of the same content. Moreover, the level of image detail affected appreciation positively and decreased visual scanning velocity. Intention does not merely affect the mental processing of images, but also physical visual behavior. Four renditions of “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, output by the EYE-diate system of student Karen Sam


As a spin-off from her scientific study, Karen also created EYE-diate, a generative art system based on human visual patterns. Basically, it enlarges regions in an image that attracted more visual attention. The above image shows four renditions of “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, output by the EYE-diate system. Each rendition is the result of one person observing the original painting, and recording the pattern of visual attention to the image. This graduation project was supervised by Joost Rekveld and Valentijn Visch.