What Words do you See First?


In 1967, Russian psychologist Alfred Yarbus concluded in his seminal work on vision and eye movements that the distribution of our points of fixation, the order in which the observer’s attention moves from one point of fixation to another, the duration of fixations, the distinctive cyclic pattern of examination, and so on are determined by the nature of the object and the problem facing the observer at the moment of perception.

This observation refutes the idea that there exists inherent regions of a complex stimulus (like a picture) that attract our attention more than others. Rather than continue to cite a number of studies and experiments that support this—I thought I would let you experience it.

If you read my text above then you approached this field of random letters trying to place disconnected letters into some type of order to see to the “problem at hand.” You did not inherently “gravitate” or continuously visit the “interest points” inherent to the rule-of-thirds armature or you might have connected the letters “L-O-V-E”. You did not follow some innate golden spiral pathway through the field or you might have discovered the string “G-O-L-D-E-N-R-A-T-IO”. If we start with the only real distractor here at most-often recorded interest region (one that I intentionally left lower case @ center to hint that location within the frame may be pertinent) and do indeed succumb to the natural interest-grabbing gravity inherent to geometric armatures we might be left with “i LOVE GOLDEN RATIO” (4 words).

The letter field was inspired by Palmer’s “Goodness-of-fit” experiment results shown in the background in the lower left which is also referenced in my 7 Part Primer on Pictorial Composition. If you are a teacher exploring composition in your classroom, I suggest sharing this experiment.

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Words I saw first: tin, yet, or, rag

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tin, elite, yet, rag

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