Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gazed Pottery

Neuroarchaeology – studying the links between changing cultures and where we place our attention

10 April 2019

Gazed Pottery

Where our eyes linger says a lot about the modern world, from a wandering gaze taking in a city skyline to repetitive back and forth glances at a smartphone. Just as society has evolved, how we investigate new objects – where we place our selective attention – has changed too. Here eye-tracking computers followed the gazes of 113 volunteers exploring pottery from different periods in history (three examples shown here) – 4000-3000 BCE on the left, through to 100 BCE on the right. As styles and shapes changed, so do the eyes’ attention patterns, lingering in warm colours in horizontal lines (lower left) but scanning later objects more vertically. Investigating the links between changing cultures and our attention, neuroarchaeology may have much to teach us about how we interact with the world today based on how we’ve changed for thousands of years, and even suggest ways to help those help those who process information differently as in, for example, autism and dementia.

Written by John Ankers

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