Exploration of Gaze-Arrow Stimuli in a Cued Paradigm of Overt Attention

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Abstract

Attentional shifts have been investigated extensively using gaze and arrow cues, but the spatiotemporal patterns of visual exploration of these stimuli—location and duration of fixations—has not been characterized. These patterns and the corresponding responses to gaze and arrow cues were examined using a saccade gap paradigm, with no constraints on central fixation, in 27 healthy adult males, aged 18–36. Mean relative dwell time, a measure of the duration of eye fixations on the stimuli relative to stimulus duration, was lower for gaze stimuli. In both stimulus conditions, responses were faster for validly cued targets at a stimulus-onset asynchrony of 400 ms, but slower at a stimulus-onset asynchrony of 800 ms. These effects were considered with reference to transient events at fixation (cue offset and gap). Foreperiod saccades—early idiosyncratic responses to the cue rather than to the target—occurred more frequently for arrow cues, were unrelated to attentional shifts, and moderately associated with readiness to respond. Asymmetries in saccade latencies, with faster responses either leftward or rightward, were present in 37% of the sample across all conditions.

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