Everyone is unique. Given the same visual stimuli, people’s attention is driven by both salient visual cues and their own inherent preferences. Knowledge of visual preferences not only facilitates understanding of fine-grained attention patterns of diverse users, but also has the potential of benefiting the development of customized applications. Nevertheless, existing saliency models typically limit their scope to attention as it applies to the general population and ignore the variability between users’ behaviors. In this paper, we identify the critical roles of visual preferences in attention modeling, and for the first time study the problem of user-aware saliency modeling. Our work aims to advance attention research from three distinct perspectives: (1) We present a new model with the flexibility to capture attention patterns of various combinations of users, so that we can adaptively predict personalized attention, user group attention, and general saliency at the same time with one single model; (2) To augment models with knowledge about the composition of attention from different users, we further propose a principled learning method to understand visual attention in a progressive manner; and (3) We carry out extensive analyses on publicly available saliency datasets to shed light on the roles of visual preferences. Experimental results on diverse stimuli, including naturalistic images and web pages, demonstrate the advantages of our method in capturing the distinct visual behaviors of different users and the general saliency of visual stimuli.