I was asked this question yesterday

Which of the following statements regarding research principles in visual attention is TRUE? The eyes tend to move from:

  • a. Light to dark (shade)
  • b. Large to small (size)
  • c. Regular to irregular (shape)
  • d. Unsaturated to saturated (colour)

I answered c) (can't remember where I Googled it but found that to be the most appropriate answer). I am worried that I am incorrect and would love to canvas the opinions of others. It shouldn't matter but the above question was in the context of web .


2 Answers 2


If the question means in which of the option pairs is the second one more attention-grabbing, I would guess d.

a. Light to dark (shade) - I would say that visual attention is automatically drawn to bright areas in the visual field, so, exactly the opposite.

b. Large to small (size) - exactly the opposite again, bigger objects would be more attention-grabbing

c. Regular to irregular (shape) - This one is a tricky one because there is evidence for both. But from the options given in the other answers, I assume the question is about stimulus-driven attention, and there, attention would spontaneously go to the gestalts in the visual field (here's a recent example).

d. Unsaturated to saturated (colour) - And voila, I would say that the more saturated is the more attention-grabbing of the two. (see here for a randomly googled reference, it also supports not choosing answer a)


I'm not a professional psychologist, but my guess is b) large to small. I read the large headlines of news papers before reading the smaller sub headlines, and then body text.

You could probably eliminate unsaturated to saturated color. Saturated color stands out, so I'm not immediately going to look at unsaturated color first.

I can't think of my attention moving gradually across the other dimensions. I don't look at the lightest thing and then the second lightest thing. I'm attracted to contrasts. People notice differences. So I might see something white and black first, then something slightly gray and light black, then something dark gray, etc. My eyes wouldn't dart around from light to slightly gray, etc..

  • $\begingroup$ The gestalt principle of continuation leads the eye toward something. For example, if you had a sun burst graphic, your eye would be drawn to the center of the burst. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 16:50

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