What is a scanpath?

Since the work of Yarbus (1967) concerning the study of eye movements during perception of complex objects, the two-dimensional movement executed by the eyes during the exploration of a scene is normally called “scanpath”. The Figure shows an example of scanpath of a subject exploring a young girl’s picture. The little “dots” are the fixations and the lines represent the saccades.


As can be seen the scanpath follows a path influenced by the picture’s characteristics, during the exploration: in particular eyes and mouth are the zones more fixated.

Therefore scanpath is the sequence of fixations and saccades used to explore a visual scene and to retrieve information.

Saccades are used to shift the gaze whereas fixation is the time during which visual information can be acquired by the central nervous system.