Flipping the world upside down: Using eye tracking in virtual reality to study visual search in inverted scenes
Beitner J., Helbing J., Draschkow D., David EJ., Võ ML-H.
Image inversion is a powerful tool for investigating cognitive mechanisms of visual perception. However, studies have mainly used inversion in paradigms presented on two-dimensional computer screens. It remains open whether disruptive effects of inversion also hold true in more naturalistic scenarios. In our study, we used scene inversion in virtual reality in combination with eye tracking to investigate the mechanisms of repeated visual search through three-dimensional immersive indoor scenes. Scene inversion affected all gaze and head measures except fixation durations and saccade amplitudes. Our behavioral results, surprisingly, did not entirely follow as hypothesized: While search efficiency dropped significantly in inverted scenes, participants did not utilize more memory as measured by search time slopes. This indicates that despite the disruption, participants did not try to compensate the increased difficulty by using more memory. Our study highlights the importance of investigating classical experimental paradigms in more naturalistic scenarios to advance research on daily human behavior.