Mind, Brain, Looking

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All our life we look around us.  From the first minutes after leaving the womb till our last minutes of consciousness, we look.  Looking has a special place in the relationship of mind and brain.  Anyone taking interest in the mind-body problem must be fascinated by the challenges of understanding the many sides of the processes of looking.

Looking is performed not only by eye movements – there are head and other bodily movements, and, moreover, there is covert attention.   Covert attention is defined, in essence, as looking in the absence of overt behavior; hence, in principle, attention is entirely within the mind.  Consequently, studying attention is possible only indirectly. 

The main subject for our study is nevertheless eye movements.  We are interested mostly in the quick jumps of the eyes called “saccades”.  Saccades shift the line of gaze from one object to another.  Saccades are fundamental for our interaction with the world.  It all starts with a limitation: we can see in detail only very close to the line of sight. Thus, in order to see what’s around us, we have to scan with the line of gaze object by object.  Our eyes are briefly stabilized on one object, then jump (‘saccade’) to the next object, again and again.  Therefore, saccades make high-acuity vision a serial process.  Although undetailed impressions of everything in front of us fall at the same time on our retinas, high-acuity vision processes objects one by one.  Looking deals with the challenges created by this limitation to serial processing.

More information on the subject and our research will appear here later.