Visual Perception: Eye Movements in Problem Solving.



Visual perception and intelligence: an investigation of the role of eye movements in problem solving.

78 school children of a Swiss Secondary School, aged 13 to 15, were presented a visual detour problem. Their eye movements were filmed at a rate of 4 pictures per second. An analysis of these records showed that those children had a better chance to solve the problem who in their first four fixations looked at all four of the essential points of the problem. Since the four points of the problem are approximatively of the same peripheral attraction, it is concluded that the fourth fixation is only sure to hit the fourth point, when inefficient eye-movements are inhibited by the system. The analyzed problem has a high loading on Meili's intelligence factor of "Plastizitaet" (= Flexibility of Closure); it is therefore suggested that this intelligence factor could be a measure of efficient coordination between the peripheral and the foveal perception system.

1: Experimental setup.

2: Test image with detour path to be found.

Instructions: You are going to see a rectangle with four small circles containing the numbers 1 to 4. As soon as you see them try to link them starting from number 1 going to number 2, then 3 and 4. The lines you draw need not be straight lines but the important thing is: Never cross an other line - whether a line which is already there or one that you have drawn. -
These instructions were exemplified by a drawing.

The results of this study:

Correlation = 0.81

There is a highly significant relationsship between the "unconscious strategy" to establish the exact position of all the four points (without intermediate renewed fixation of a point which has been fixated already) and the ability to solve this visual problem which is highly loaded with the intelligence factor of plasticity (flexibility of closure).

Flash video showing approx 54 eye movements in factor 10 slow motion of a student solving the above problem in 14 seconds.
As the recording is made thru a glass plate the visual problem (shown in figure 2 ) is horizontally mirrored.
Please note the moment, when the subject's facial expression indicates that he can see the solution.
Before he draws the solution his eyes etablish the distance for his hand movement by fixating the target.
Click here and wait a few seconds for the video to start.
Click the on screen play button to start and the browser back button to return.


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How to cite this article:
Hunziker, H. W. (1970). Visuelle Informationsaufnahme und Intelligenz: Eine Untersuchung über die Augenfixationen beim Problemlösen. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Psychologie und ihre Anwendungen, 1970, 29, Nr 1/2 (Visual perception and intelligence: an investigation of the role of eye tracking in problem solving).
First published in English on August 6, 1999,
retrieved on "current date" from the World Wide Web at