Concurrent processing of saccades in visual search

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We provide evidence that the saccadic system can simultaneously program two saccades to different goals. We presented subjects with simple visual search displays in which they were required to make a saccade to an odd-colored target embedded in an array of distractors. When there was strong competition between target and distractor stimuli (due to color priming from previous trials), subjects were more likely to make a saccade to a distractor. Such error saccades were often followed, after a very short inter-saccadic interval (~10-100 ms), by a second saccade to the target. The brevity of these inter-saccadic intervals suggests that the programming of the two saccades (one to a distractor and one to the target) overlapped in time. Using a saccade-contingent change in the search display, we show that new visual information presented during the initial saccade does not change the goal of the second saccade. This supports the idea that, by the end of the first saccade, programming of the second saccade is already well underway. We also elicited two-saccade responses (similar to those seen in search) using a double-step task, with the first saccade directed to the initial target step and the second saccade directed to the second target step. If the two saccades are programmed in parallel and programming of each saccade is triggered by one of the two target steps, the second saccade should occur at a relatively fixed time after the onset of the second target step, regardless of the timing of the initial saccade. This prediction was confirmed, supporting the idea that the two saccades are programmed in parallel. Finally, we observed that the shortest inter-saccadic intervals typically followed hypometric initial saccades, suggesting that the initial saccade may have been interrupted by the impending second saccade. Using predictions from physiological studies of interrupted saccades, we tested this hypothesis and found that the hypometric initial saccades did not appear to be interrupted in mid-flight. We discuss the significance of our findings for models of the saccadic system. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.




McPeek, R. M., Skavenski, A. A., & Nakayama, K. (2000). Concurrent processing of saccades in visual search. Vision Research, 40(18), 2499–2516.

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