General Psychology II

Prof. Dr. Antje Nuthmann


Olshausenstr. 62, R. 311
Phone: +49 431 880-4057

Research Office:
Wilhelm-Seelig-Platz 6, R. 305
Phone: +49 431 880-2418

Research sabbatical from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022

Research Interests

Perceptual, oculomotor and attentional control in real-world scene perception, visual search, and reading; computational and statistical modeling

Research Projects

How do we gather visual information from the world to aid perception and action? Our approach to this question is to work with static and dynamic images of real-world scenes and to record observers’ eye movements while they freely explore the scene or follow a specific task instruction. We investigate both spatial (Where? Where do we move our attention and gaze?) and temporal (When? How long do attention and gaze remain at a given location?) aspects of eye-movement control.
Eye-tracking demo, CAU campus (YouTube)

Project 1: Where do we look: objects and visual salience

Regarding the Where? decision about where to fixate next, the prevailing saliency models postulate that visually salient scene regions attract attention and gaze. But are we really stimulus driven saliency detectors? As an alternative, we have argued and shown that attention allocation and saccade target selection are strongly driven by (task-relevant) objects, and that visual salience acts through its correlation with objects (e.g., Nuthmann & Henderson, 2010; Nuthmann et al., 2020).

The goal of complementary methodological work is to provide developers of saliency models with a powerful method to identify the image features that should be combined in a saliency map (Nuthmann & Einhäuser, 2015) and to assess model performance (Nuthmann et al., 2017).

Project 2: How long do we look?

Research on the When? decision is based on the proposition that the durations of fixations in scene viewing are sensitive to moment-to-moment visual-cognitive processing demands. We were among the first to systematically study the precise mechanisms that control fixation durations during scene perception, using experiments (e.g., Walshe & Nuthmann, 2014; Einhäuser et al., 2020) and statistical modelling techniques (Einhäuser & Nuthmann, 2016; Nuthmann, 2017). This line of research also includes the development of computational models: the CRISP model (e.g., Nuthmann et al., 2010) and, more recently, a dual-process model of fixation-duration control in natural scene viewing (Walshe & Nuthmann, 2021).

Project 3: Scene perception and search from foveal to peripheral vision

It is well known that reading speed and comprehension suffer when high-acuity foveal vision is damaged or artificially masked. In this project, we test the generality of this finding by addressing the following question: How important are the different regions of the visual field for visual search in naturalistic scenes? In these experiments, we use gaze-contingent scotomas to selectively deny information processing in the fovea, parafovea, or periphery (demo 1; demo 2).

The results from several studies converge on the finding that foveal vision is less important and peripheral vision is more important for scene perception and search than previously thought. Moreover, the importance of foveal vision was found to depend on the specific requirements of the task. We are currently extending this work to dynamic scenes with static or moving targets.

Key publications: Nuthmann (2014); Clayden et al. (2020); Nuthmann et al. (2021)

Curriculum Vitae

  • 04/2018 - 03/2020: Head of Department, Institute of Psychology, Kiel University (Germany)
  • Since 08/2017: Full Professor for Perception and Cognition, Kiel University
  • 2016: Promotion to Reader, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh (Scotland)
  • 01/2013 - 06/2013: Invited Fellow-in-Residence at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) at Bielefeld University (Germany), Research Group "Competition and priority control in mind and brain: new perspectives from task-driven vision" (10/2012 - 07/2013)
  • 03/2010: Promotion to Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh
  • 06/2007 - 02/2010: Tenure-Track Academic Fellow in Visual Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh
  • 01/2006 - 05/2007: Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Psychology (Prof. Reinhold Kliegl), University of Potsdam (Germany)
  • 10/2002 - 05/2006: Doctorate in Psychology (Dr. phil.), University of Potsdam
    Thesis: The "Where" and "When" of Eye Fixations in Reading
  • 10/1996 - 09/2002: Studies in Psychology, Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany)
    Degree: Dipl.-Psych. (~ M.Sc.)
  • 09/2000 - 05/2001: Academic stay at the University of Toronto, Canada (Prof. Eyal M. Reingold)