Independent allocation of attention to eye and hand targets in coordinated eye-hand movements

Psychol Sci. 2011 Mar;22(3):339-47. doi: 10.1177/0956797610397666. Epub 2011 Jan 26.


When reaching for objects, people frequently look where they reach. This raises the question of whether the targets for the eye and hand in concurrent eye and hand movements are selected by a unitary attentional system or by independent mechanisms. We used the deployment of visual attention as an index of the selection of movement targets and asked observers to reach and look to either the same location or separate locations. Results show that during the preparation of coordinated movements, attention is allocated in parallel to the targets of a saccade and a reaching movement. Attentional allocations for the two movements interact synergistically when both are directed to a common goal. Delaying the eye movement delays the attentional shift to the saccade target while leaving attentional deployment to the reach target unaffected. Our findings demonstrate that attentional resources are allocated independently to the targets of eye and hand movements and suggest that the goals for these effectors are selected by separate attentional mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Distance Perception
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Orientation
  • Perceptual Masking
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time
  • Saccades*
  • Sensory Deprivation