Language-mediated eye movements in the absence of a visual world: the 'blank screen paradigm'

Cognition. 2004 Sep;93(2):B79-87. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2004.02.005.


The 'visual world paradigm' typically involves presenting participants with a visual scene and recording eye movements as they either hear an instruction to manipulate objects in the scene or as they listen to a description of what may happen to those objects. In this study, participants heard each target sentence only after the corresponding visual scene had been displayed and then removed. For a scene depicting a man, a woman, a cake, and a newspaper, the eyes were subsequently directed, during 'eat' in 'the man will eat the cake', towards where the cake had previously been located even though the screen had been blank for over 2 s. The rapidity of these movements mirrored the anticipatory eye movements observed in previous studies [Cognition 73 (1999) 247; J. Mem. Lang. 49 (2003) 133]. Thus, anticipatory eye movements are not dependent on a concurrent visual scene, but are dependent on a mental record of the scene that is independent of whether the visual scene is still present.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Visual Perception*