Saccade target selection and object recognition: evidence for a common attentional mechanism

Vision Res. 1996 Jun;36(12):1827-37. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(95)00294-4.


The spatial interaction of visual attention and saccadic eye movements was investigated in a dual-task paradigm that required a target-directed saccade in combination with a letter discrimination task. Subjects had to saccade to locations within horizontal letter strings left and right of a central fixation cross. The performance in discriminating between the symbols "E" and "E", presented tachistoscopically before the saccade within the surrounding distractors was taken as a measure of visual attention. The data show that visual discrimination is best when discrimination stimulus and saccade target refer to the same object; discrimination at neighboring items is close to chance level. Also, it is not possible, in spite of prior knowledge of discrimination target position, to direct attention to the discrimination target while saccading to a spatially close saccade target. The data strongly argue for an obligatory and selective coupling of saccade programming and visual attention to one common target object. The results favor a model in which a single attentional mechanism selects objects for perceptual processing and recognition, and also provides the information necessary for motor action.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Eye Movements
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Time Factors