When you are not alone: looking at steps when someone is on the staircase in front of you

Poster Presentation: Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Eye Movements: Natural world and VR

Andrea Ghiani1 (), Sara Kabbara1, Eli Brenner1; 1Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Where people look when navigating staircases has generally been studied with participants alone on the staircase. In daily life people regularly encounter other people while climbing staircases. Does the presence of other people influence gaze? We previously found that carrying a tray does not influence the sequence in which steps are fixated or the number of fixated steps. The presence of another person walking in front of a participant might therefore not influence the sequence and number of fixated steps either. To find out whether it does, we measured the gaze of 26 participants walking through a two-story furniture store. They were asked to examine all the furniture, and then to examine it all again, so that they had to walk up and down the staircase between the two stories twice. On one of the two occasions, an associate intentionally walked in front of the participant on the staircase. Participants were not aware that the associate was involved in the experiment. The presence of the other person on the staircase did not influence the participants’ sequences of fixations, but it did make them look at fewer steps and look closer to their feet (fewer steps ahead). As when walking with and without a tray, we found a clear correlation between the fraction of fixated steps when walking alone and when walking behind another person, confirming previous findings that revealed clear consistent differences between people in terms of the number of steps they look at.

Acknowledgements: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 955590 (OptiVisT).