TAM: Explaining off-object fixations and central fixation tendencies as effects of population averaging during search
Understanding how patterns are selected for both recognition and action, in the form of an eye movement, is essential to understanding the mechanisms of visual search. It is argued that selecting a pattern for fixation is time consuming—requiring the pruning of a population of
possible saccade vectors to isolate the specific movement to the potential target. To support this position, two experiments are reported showing evidence for off-object fixations, where fixations land between objects rather than directly on objects, and central fixations, where initial saccades
land near the centre of scenes. Both behaviours were modelled successfully using TAM (Target Acquisition Model; Zelinsky, 2008). TAM interprets these behaviours as expressions of population averaging occurring at different times during saccade target selection. A large population early during
search results in the averaging of the entire scene and a central fixation; a smaller population later during search results in averaging between groups of objects and off-object fixations.