A Look Into the Future: Spontaneous Anticipatory Saccades Reflect Processes of Anticipatory Action Control

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According to ideomotor theory, human action control uses anticipations of one’s own actions’ future consequences, that is, action effect anticipations, as a means of triggering actions that will produce desired outcomes (e.g., Hommel, Müsseler, Aschersleben, & Prinz, 2001). Using the response-effect compatibility paradigm (Kunde, 2001), we demonstrate that the anticipation of one’s own manual actions’ future consequences not only triggers appropriate (i.e., instructed) actions, but simultaneously induces spontaneous (uninstructed) anticipatory saccades to the location of future action consequences. In contrast to behavioral response-effect compatibility effects that have been linked to processes of action selection and action planning, our results suggest that these anticipatory saccades serve the function of outcome evaluation, that is, the comparison of expected/intended and observed action outcomes. Overall, our results demonstrate the informational value of additionally analyzing uninstructed behavioral components complementary to instructed responses and allow us to specify essential mechanisms of the complex interplay between the manual and oculomotor control system in goal-directed action control.

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