, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 787-795

The role of visual attention in saccadic eye movements


The relationship between saccadic eye movements and covert orienting of visual spatial attention was investigated in two experiments. In the first experiment, subjects were required to make a saccade to a specified location while also detecting a visual target presented just prior to the eye movement. Detection accuracy was highest when the location of the target coincided with the location of the saccade, suggesting that subjects use spatial attention in the programming and/or execution of saccadic eye movements. In the second experiment, subjects were explicitly directed to attend to a particular location and to make a saccade to the same location or to a different one. Superior target detection occurred at the saccade location regardless of attention instructions. This finding shows that subjects cannot move their eyes to one location and attend to a different one. The results of these experiments suggest that visuospatial attention is an important mechanism in generating voluntary saccadic eye movements.

This research was supported by University of Delaware Biomedical Research Grant and Army Research Office Contract DAAL03-86-k-0080 to the first author and was submitted by the second author in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master of Arts degree.
Portions of this paper were presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, San Francisco, CA, November 1991.