In what ways do eye movements contribute to everyday activities?

Vision Res. 2001;41(25-26):3559-65. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(01)00102-x.


Two recent studies have investigated the relations of eye and hand movements in extended food preparation tasks, and here the results are compared. The tasks could be divided into a series of actions performed on objects. The eyes usually reached the next object in the sequence before any sign of manipulative action, indicating that eye movements are planned into the motor pattern and lead each action. The eyes usually fixated the same object throughout the action upon it, although they often moved on to the next object in the sequence before completion of the preceding action. The specific roles of individual fixations could be identified as locating (establishing the locations of objects for future use), directing (establishing target direction prior to contact), guiding (supervising the relative movements of two or three objects) and checking (establishing whether some particular condition is met, prior to the termination of an action). It is argued that, at the beginning of each action, the oculomotor system is supplied with the identity of the required object, information about its location, and instructions about the nature of the monitoring required during the action. The eye movements during this kind of task are nearly all to task-relevant objects, and thus their control is seen as primarily 'top-down', and influenced very little by the 'intrinsic salience' of objects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*