Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 177, Issue 2, pp 223–232 | Cite as

Fixation offset facilitates saccades and manual reaching for single but not multiple target displays

Research Article


Turning off a fixation point, typically for 200 ms, before the onset of a peripheral target substantially reduces saccadic reaction times. This facilitatory effect generated by an inserted temporal gap between fixation offset and the target appearance is called the “gap” effect [J Opt Soc Am 57:1030–1033, 1967]. We show that the gap reduces the initial latency of both saccades and manual pointing in single and multiple target displays. Yet, in multiple target displays, the gap increased the movement duration because eye or hand movements were frequently misdirected toward distractors so that the trajectory had to be corrected. Thus, in spite of the shortened latency, the total time for trial completion was not shortened in multiple target displays, whereas it was reduced in single target displays. This selective gap effect for a single target was not restricted to goal-directed motor tasks because perceptual discrimination tasks, where no motor response is required, also demonstrated the gap effect only for single target displays. Our results suggest that the gap may facilitate attentional disengagement, but it does not help target selection in motor and perceptual discrimination tasks, where the allocation of attention to the target is required.


Gap effect Saccades Manual pointing Perceptual discrimination Attention 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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