Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The role of visual attention in saccadic eye movements

Abstract

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.

References

  1. Allport, A. (1987). Selection-for-action: Some behavioral and neurophysiological considerations of attention and action. In H. Heuer & A. F. Sanders (Eds.),Perspectives on perception and action (pp. 395–419). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  2. Allport, A. (1991). Visual attention. In M. I. Posner (Ed.),Foundations of cognitive science (pp. 631–682). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  3. Bashinski, H. S., &Bacharach, V. R. (1980). Enhancement of perceptual sensitivity as the result of selectively attending to spatial locations.Perception & Psychophysics,28, 241–280.

  4. Cheal, M. L., &Lyon, D. (1989). Attention effects on form discrimination at different eccentricities.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,41A, 719–746.

  5. Desimone, R., Wessinger, M., Thomas, L., &Schneider, W. (1989). Effects of deactivation of lateral pulvinar or superior colliculus on the ability to selectively attend to a visual stimulus.Society for Neuroscience Abstracts,15, 162.

  6. Downing, C. J. (1988). Expectancy and visual-spatial attention: Effects on perceptual quality.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,14, 188–202.

  7. Eriksen, C. W., &Hoffman, J. E. (1973). The extent of processing of noise elements during selective visual encoding from visual displays.Perception & Psychophysics,14, 155–160.

  8. Eriksen, C. W., &Hoffman, J. E. (1974). Selective attention: Noise suppression or signal enhancement?Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,4, 587–589.

  9. Gattas, R., &Desimone, R. (1992). Stimulation of the superior colliculus (SC) shifts the focus of attention in the macaque.Society for Neuroscience Abstracts,18, 703.

  10. Guitton, D., Buchtel, H. A., &Douglas, R. M. (1985). Frontal lobe lesions in man cause difficulties in suppressing reflexive glances and in generating goal-directed saccades.Exploratory Brain Research,58, 455–472.

  11. Hawkins, H. L., Hillyard, S. A., Luck, S. J., Mouloua, M., Downing, C. J., &Woodward, D. P. (1990). Visual attention modulates signal detectability.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,16, 802–811.

  12. Henderson, J. M., Pollatsek, A., &Rayner, K. (1989). Covert visual attention and extrafoveal information use during object identification.Perception & Psychophysics,45, 196–208.

  13. Hoffman, J. E. (1975). Hierarchical stages in the processing of visual information.Perception & Psychophysics,18, 348–354.

  14. Hoffman, J. E., &Nelson, B. (1981). Spatial selectivity in visual search.Perception & Psychophysics,30, 283–290.

  15. Just, M. A., &Carpenter, P. A. (1987).The psychology of reading and language comprehension. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  16. Klein, R. (1980). Does oculomotor readiness mediate cognitive control of visual attention? In R. S. Nickerson (Ed.),Attention and performance VIII (pp. 259–276). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  17. Klein, R. M., Kingstone, A., &Pontefract, A. (1992). Orienting of visual attention. In K. Rayner (Ed.),Eye movements and visual cognition (pp. 46–65). New York: Springer-Verlag.

  18. Klein, R. M., &Pontefract, A. (1994). Does oculomotor readiness mediate cognitive control of visual attention? Revisited! In C. Umiltà & M. Moskovitch (Eds.),Attention and performance XV (pp. 333–350). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  19. Kowler, E. (1985). Smooth eye movements as indicators of selective attention. In M. I. Posner & O. S. M. Marin (Eds.),Mechanisms of attention: Attention and performance XI (pp. 285–300). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  20. Kowler, E. (1991). The role of visual and cognitive processes in the control of eye movement. In E. Kowler (Ed.),Eye movements and their role in visual and cognitive processes (pp. 1–70). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

  21. Kowler, E., Anderson, E., Dosher, B., & Blaser, E. (in press). The role of attention in the programming of saccades. Vision Research.

  22. Lyon, D. (1990). Large and rapid improvement in form discrimination accuracy following a location precue.Acta Psychologica,73, 69–82.

  23. McConkie, G. W., &Rayner, K. (1975). The span of the effective stimulus during a fixation in reading.Perception & Psychophysics,17, 578–586.

  24. McConkie, G. W., &Rayner, K. (1976). Asymmetry of the perceptual span in reading.Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,8, 365–368.

  25. Pashler, H. (1989). Dissociations and dependencies between speed and accuracy: Evidence for a two-component theory of divided attention in simple tasks.Cognitive Psychology,21, 469–514.

  26. Pollatsek, A., Bolozky, S., Well, A. D., &Rayner, K. (1981). Asymmetries in the perceptual span for Israeli readers.Brain & Language,14, 174–180.

  27. Posner, M. I. (1980). Orienting of attention.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,32, 3–25.

  28. Posner, M. I., Nissen, N. J., &Ogden, W. C. (1978). Attended and unattended processing modes: The role of set for spatial location. In H. L. Picks & I. J. Saltzman (Eds.),Modes of perceiving and processing information (pp. 137–157). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  29. Rafal, R. F., Posner, M. I., Friedman, J. H., Inhoff, A. W., &Bernstein, E. (1988). Orienting of visual attention in progressive supranuclear palsy.Brain,111, 267–280.

  30. Rayner, K. (1975). The perceptual span and peripheral cues in reading.Cognitive Psychology,7, 65–81.

  31. Rayner, K., &Pollatsek, A. (1989).The psychology of reading. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

  32. Remington, R. W. (1980). Attention and saccadic eye movements.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,6, 726–744.

  33. Remington, R. W., Johnston, J. C., &Yantis, S. (1992). Involuntary attentional capture by abrupt onsets.Perception & Psychophysics,51, 279–290.

  34. Reuter-Lorenz, P. A., &Fendrich, R. (1992). Oculomotor readiness and covert orienting: Differences between central and peripheral precues.Perception & Psychophysics,52, 336–344.

  35. Rizzolatti, G., Riggio, L., Dascola, I., &Umiltà, C. (1987). Reorienting attention across the vertical and horizontal meridians: Evidence in favor of a premotor theory of attention.Neuropsychologia,25, 31–40.

  36. Rizzolatti, G., Riggio, L., &Sheliga, B. M. (1994). Space and selective attention. In C. Umiltà & M. Moskovitch (Eds.),Attention and performance XV (pp. 231–265). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  37. Schneider, W. X., &Deubel, H. (1995). Visual attention and saccadic eye movements: Evidence for obligatory and selective spatial coupling. In J. M. Findlay, R. Kentridge, & R. Walker (Eds.),Eye movement research: Mechanisms, processes, and applications (pp. 317–324). New York: Elsevier.

  38. Shepherd, M., Findlay, J. M., &Hockey, R. J. (1986). The relationship between eye movements and spatial attention.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,38A, 475–491.

  39. Taylor, M. M., &Creelman, C. D. (1967). PEST: Efficient estimates on probability functions.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,41, 782–787.

  40. Wurtz, R. H., Goldberg, M. E., &Robinson, D. L. (1980). Behavioral modulation of visual responses in the monkey: Stimulus selection for attention and movement.Progress in Psychobiology & Physiological Psychology,9, 43–83.

  41. Wurtz, R. H., Goldberg, M. E., &Robinson, D. L. (1982). Brain mechanisms of visual attention.Scientific American,246, 124–135.

  42. Yarbus, A. L. (1967).Eye movements and vision. New York: Plenum.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to James E. Hoffman.

Additional information

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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hoffman, J.E., Subramaniam, B. The role of visual attention in saccadic eye movements. Perception & Psychophysics 57, 787–795 (1995). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03206794

Download citation

Keywords

  • Superior Colliculus
  • Target Letter
  • Saccadic Latency
  • Covert Orienting
  • Display Position