Viewing garden scenes: Interaction between gaze behavior and physiological responses
Previous research has shown that exposure to Japanese gardens reduces physiological measures of stress, e.g. heart rate, in both healthy subjects and dementia patients. However, the correlation between subjects’ physiological responses and their visual behavior while viewing the garden has not yet been investigated. To address this, we developed a system to collect simultaneous measurements of eye gaze and three physiological indicators of autonomic nervous system activity: electrocardiogram, blood volume pulse, and galvanic skin response. We recorded healthy subjects’ physiological/behavioral responses when they viewed two environments (an empty courtyard and a Japanese garden) in two ways (directly or as a projected 2D photograph). Similar to past work, we found that differences in subject’s physiological responses to the two environments when viewed directly, but not as a photograph. We also found differences in their behavioral responses. We quantified subject’s behavioral responses using several gaze metrics commonly considered to be measures of engagement of focus: average fixation duration, saccade amplitude, spatial entropy and gaze transition entropy. We found decrease in gaze transition entropy, the only metric that accounts for both the spatial and temporal properties of gaze, to have a weak positive correlation with decrease in heart rate. This suggests a relationship between engagement/focus and relaxation. Finally, we found gender differences: females’ gaze patterns were more spatially distributed and had higher transition entropy than males.
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