Publications by authors named "Wieske van Zoest"

42 Publications

Eye-movement patterns to social and non-social cues in early deaf adults.

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 2021 Mar 17:1747021821998511. Epub 2021 Mar 17.

Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy.

Previous research on covert orienting to the periphery suggested that early profound deaf adults were less susceptible to uninformative gaze-cues, though were equally or more affected by non-social arrow-cues. The aim of this work was to investigate whether spontaneous eye movement behaviour helps explain the reduced impact of the social cue in deaf adults. We tracked the gaze of 25 early profound deaf and 25 age-matched hearing observers performing a peripheral discrimination task with uninformative central cues (gaze vs arrow), stimulus-onset asynchrony (250 vs 750 ms), and cue validity (valid vs invalid) as within-subject factors. In both groups, the cue effect on reaction time (RT) was comparable for the two cues, although deaf observers responded significantly slower than hearing controls. While deaf and hearing observers' eye movement pattern looked similar when the cue was presented in isolation, deaf participants made significantly more eye movements than hearing controls once the discrimination target appeared. Notably, further analysis of eye movements in the deaf group revealed that independent of the cue type, cue validity affected saccade landing position, while latency was not modulated by these factors. Saccade landing position was also strongly related to the magnitude of the validity effect on RT, such that the greater the difference in saccade landing position between invalid and valid trials, the greater the difference in manual RT between invalid and valid trials. This work suggests that the contribution of overt selection in central cueing of attention is more prominent in deaf adults and helps determine the manual performance, irrespective of the cue type.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1747021821998511DOI Listing
March 2021

Environmental Learning of Social Cues: Evidence From Enhanced Gaze Cueing in Deaf Children.

Child Dev 2019 09 12;90(5):1525-1534. Epub 2019 Jul 12.

University of Trento.

The susceptibility to gaze cueing in deaf children aged 7-14 years old (N = 16) was tested using a nonlinguistic task. Participants performed a peripheral shape-discrimination task, whereas uninformative central gaze cues validly or invalidly cued the location of the target. To assess the role of sign language experience and bilingualism in deaf participants, three groups of age-matched hearing children were recruited: bimodal bilinguals (vocal and sign-language, N = 19), unimodal bilinguals (two vocal languages, N = 17), and monolinguals (N = 14). Although all groups showed a gaze-cueing effect and were faster to respond to validly than invalidly cued targets, this effect was twice as large in deaf participants. This result shows that atypical sensory experience can tune the saliency of a fundamental social cue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13284DOI Listing
September 2019

Predictions as a window into learning: Anticipatory fixation offsets carry more information about environmental statistics than reactive stimulus-responses.

J Vis 2019 02;19(2)

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), The University of Trento, Trento, Italy.

A core question underlying neurobiological and computational models of behavior is how individuals learn environmental statistics and use them to make predictions. Most investigations of this issue have relied on reactive paradigms, in which inferences about predictive processes are derived by modeling responses to stimuli that vary in likelihood. Here we deployed a novel anticipatory oculomotor metric to determine how input statistics impact anticipatory behavior that is decoupled from target-driven-response. We implemented transition constraints between target locations, so that the probability of a target being presented on the same side as the previous trial was 70% in one condition (pret70) and 30% in the other (pret30). Rather than focus on responses to targets, we studied subtle endogenous anticipatory fixation offsets (AFOs) measured while participants fixated the screen center, awaiting a target. These AFOs were small (<0.4° from center on average), but strongly tracked global-level statistics. Speaking to learning dynamics, trial-by-trial fluctuations in AFO were well-described by a learning model, which identified a lower learning rate in pret70 than pret30, corroborating prior suggestions that pret70 is subjectively treated as more regular. Most importantly, direct comparisons with saccade latencies revealed that AFOs: (a) reflected similar temporal integration windows, (b) carried more information about the statistical context than did saccade latencies, and (c) accounted for most of the information that saccade latencies also contained about inputs statistics. Our work demonstrates how strictly predictive processes reflect learning dynamics, and presents a new direction for studying learning and prediction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/19.2.8DOI Listing
February 2019

The role of eye movements in manual responses to social and nonsocial cues.

Atten Percept Psychophys 2019 Jul;81(5):1236-1252

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy.

Gaze and arrow cues cause covert attention shifts even when they are uninformative. Nonetheless, it is unclear to what extent oculomotor behavior influences manual responses to social and nonsocial stimuli. In two experiments, we tracked the gaze of participants during the cueing task with nonpredictive gaze and arrow cues. In Experiment 1, the discrimination task was easy and eye movements were not necessary, whereas in Experiment 2 they were instrumental in identifying the target. Validity effects on manual response time (RT) were similar for the two cues in Experiment 1 and in Experiment 2, though in the presence of eye movements observers were overall slower to respond to the arrow cue compared with the gaze cue. Cue direction had an effect on saccadic performance before the discrimination was presented and throughout the duration of the trial. Furthermore, we found evidence of a distinct impact of the type of cue on diverse oculomotor components. While saccade latencies were affected by the type of cue, both before and after the target onset, saccade landing positions were not. Critically, the manual validity effect was predicted by the landing position of the initial eye movement. This work suggests that the relationship between eye movements and attention is not straightforward. In the presence of overt selection, saccade latency related to the overall speed of manual response, while eye movements landing position was closely related to manual performance in response to different cues.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13414-019-01669-9DOI Listing
July 2019

Spontaneous pre-stimulus oscillatory activity shapes the way we look: A concurrent imaging and eye-movement study.

Eur J Neurosci 2019 01 26;49(1):137-149. Epub 2018 Dec 26.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy.

Previous behavioural studies have accrued evidence that response time plays a critical role in determining whether selection is influenced by stimulus saliency or target template. In the present work, we investigated to what extent the variations in timing and consequent oculomotor controls are influenced by spontaneous variations in pre-stimulus alpha oscillations. We recorded simultaneously brain activity using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and eye movements while participants performed a visual search task. Our results show that slower saccadic reaction times were predicted by an overall stronger alpha power in the 500 ms time window preceding the stimulus onset, while weaker alpha power was a signature of faster responses. When looking separately at performance for fast and slow responses, we found evidence for two specific sources of alpha activity predicting correct versus incorrect responses. When saccades were quickly elicited, errors were predicted by stronger alpha activity in posterior areas, comprising the angular gyrus in the temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) and possibly the lateral intraparietal area (LIP). Instead, when participants were slower in responding, an increase of alpha power in frontal eye fields (FEF), supplementary eye fields (SEF) and dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex (DLPFC) predicted erroneous saccades. In other words, oculomotor accuracy in fast responses was predicted by alpha power differences in more posterior areas, while the accuracy in slow responses was predicted by alpha power differences in frontal areas, in line with the idea that these areas may be differentially related to stimulus-driven and goal-driven control of selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ejn.14285DOI Listing
January 2019

Effect of dietary restraint and mood state on attentional processing of food cues.

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 2019 03 5;62:117-124. Epub 2018 Oct 5.

Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Background And Objectives: Research linking dietary restraint to attentional bias toward food cues has been equivocal, suggesting that dietary restraint may only influence attentional processing of food in certain contexts. The present study examined whether negative mood strengthens the association between dietary restraint and attention bias for food.

Methods: Healthy female participants were randomized to either a neutral (n = 47) or negative mood (n = 49) induction. Participants then completed a visual search task featuring targets displayed adjacent to pictures of palatable food, musical instruments, or non-instrument filler objects. Attention bias for food was operationalized as shorter response latency when the target appeared adjacent to palatable food as compared to musical instruments. Attention bias was examined in a 2 (mood condition) × 2 (picture: food vs. instrument) × 2 (target location: match vs. mismatch) repeated measures ANCOVA, with dietary restraint as a continuous covariate and response latency as the dependent variable.

Results: Though there was no evidence of an interaction between mood condition and dietary restraint, mood had an influence on attention allocation. Contrary to study hypotheses, individuals in the neutral mood condition, but not those in the negative mood condition, responded in a manner indicative of bias toward food.

Limitations: Additional research is necessary to validate the experimental task used in the present study to assess food-specific attentional bias.

Conclusions: Neutral mood may be associated with enhanced processing of palatable food cues. Critically, results do not support the hypothesized link between negative mood and attention bias for food.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.10.002DOI Listing
March 2019

No evidence of task co-representation in a joint Stroop task.

Psychol Res 2019 Jul 29;83(5):852-862. Epub 2017 Aug 29.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Corso Bettini 31, 38068, Rovereto, TN, Italy.

People working together on a task must often represent the goals and salient items of their partner. The aim of the present study was to study the influence of joint task representations in an interference task in which the congruency relies on semantic identity. If task representations are shared between partners in a joint Stroop task (co-representation account), we hypothesized that items in the response set of one partner might influence performance of the other. In Experiment 1, pairs of participants sat side by side. Each participant was instructed to press one of two buttons to indicate which of two colors assigned to them was present, ignoring the text and responding only to the pixel color. There were three types of incongruent distractor words: names of colors from their own response set, names of colors from the other partner's response set, and neutral words for colors not used as font colors. The results of Experiment 1 showed that when people were doing this task together, distractor words from the partner's response set interfered more than neutral words and just as much as the words from their own response color set. However, in three follow-up experiments (Experiments 2a, 2b, and 2c), we found an elevated interference for the other response-set words even though no co-actor was present. The overall pattern of results across our study suggests that an alternative response set, regardless of whether it belonged to a co-actor or to a non-social no-go condition, evoked equal amounts of interference comparable to those of the own response set. Our findings are in line with a theory of common coding, in which all events-irrespective of their social nature-are represented and can influence behavior.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0909-zDOI Listing
July 2019

Conditional control in visual selection.

Atten Percept Psychophys 2017 Aug;79(6):1555-1572

Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Attention and eye movements provide a window into the selective processing of visual information. Evidence suggests that selection is influenced by various factors and is not always under the strategic control of the observer. The aims of this tutorial review are to give a brief introduction to eye movements and attention and to outline the conditions that help determine control. Evidence suggests that the ability to establish control depends on the complexity of the display as well as the point in time at which selection occurs. Stimulus-driven selection is more probable in simple displays than in complex natural scenes, but it critically depends on the timing of the response: Salience determines selection only when responses are triggered quickly following display presentation, and plays no role in longer-latency responses. The time course of selection is also important for the relationship between attention and eye movements. Specifically, attention and eye movements appear to act independently when oculomotor selection is quick, whereas attentional processes are able to influence oculomotor control when saccades are triggered only later in time. This relationship may also be modulated by whether the eye movement is controlled in a voluntary or an involuntary manner. To conclude, we present evidence that shows that visual control is limited in flexibility and that the mechanisms of selection are constrained by context and time. The outcome of visual selection changes with the situational context, and knowing the constraints of control is necessary to understanding when and how visual selection is truly controlled by the observer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13414-017-1352-3DOI Listing
August 2017

The impact of salience and visual working memory on the monitoring and control of saccadic behavior: An eye-tracking and EEG study.

Psychophysiology 2017 04 10;54(4):544-554. Epub 2017 Jan 10.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy.

In a concurrent eye-tracking and EEG study, we investigated the impact of salience on the monitoring and control of eye movement behavior and the role of visual working memory (VWM) capacity in mediating this effect. Participants made eye movements to a unique line-segment target embedded in a search display also containing a unique distractor. Target and distractor salience was manipulated by varying degree of orientation offset from a homogenous background. VWM capacity was measured using a change-detection task. Results showed greater likelihood of incorrect saccades when the distractor was relatively more salient than when the target was salient. Misdirected saccades to salient distractors were strongly represented in the error-monitoring system by rapid and robust error-related negativity (ERN), which predicted a significant adjustment of oculomotor behavior. Misdirected saccades to less-salient distractors, while arguably representing larger errors, were not as well detected or utilized by the error/performance-monitoring system. This system was instead better engaged in tasks requiring greater cognitive control and by individuals with higher VWM capacity. Our findings show that relative salience of task-relevant and task-irrelevant stimuli can define situations where an increase in cognitive control is necessary, with individual differences in VWM capacity explaining significant variance in the degree of monitoring and control of goal-directed eye movement behavior. The present study supports a conflict-monitoring interpretation of the ERN, whereby the level of competition between different responses, and the stimuli that define these responses, was more important in the generation of an enhanced ERN than the error commission itself.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12817DOI Listing
April 2017

A temporal dependency account of attentional inhibition in oculomotor control.

Neuroimage 2017 02 9;147:880-894. Epub 2016 Nov 9.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, 38068 Rovereto, TN, Italy.

We used concurrent electroencephalogram (EEG) and eye tracking to investigate the role of covert attentional mechanisms in the control of oculomotor behavior. Human participants made speeded saccades to targets that were presented alongside salient distractors. By subsequently sorting trials based on whether the distractor was strongly represented or suppressed by the visual system - as evident in the accuracy (Exp. 1) or quality of the saccade (Exp. 2) - we could characterize and contrast pre-saccadic neural activity as a function of whether oculomotor control was established. Results show that saccadic behavior is strongly linked to the operation of attentional mechanisms in visual cortex. In Experiment 1, accurate saccades were preceded by attentional selection of the target - indexed by a target-elicited N2pc component - and by attentional suppression of the distractor - indexed by early and late distractor-elicited distractor positivity (Pd) components. In Experiment 2, the strength of distractor suppression predicted the degree to which the path of slower saccades would deviate away from the distractor en route to the target. However, results also demonstrated clear dissociations of covert and overt selective control, with saccadic latency in particular showing no relationship to the latency of covert selective mechanisms. Eye movements could thus be initiated prior to the onset of attentional ERP components, resulting in stimulus-driven behaviour. Taken together, the results indicate that attentional mechanisms play a role in determining saccadic behavior, but that saccade timing is not contingent on the deployment of attention. This creates a temporal dependency, whereby attention fosters oculomotor control only when attentional mechanisms are given sufficient opportunity to impact stimuli representations before an eye movement is executed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.11.004DOI Listing
February 2017

Spatial and non-spatial multisensory cueing in unilateral cochlear implant users.

Hear Res 2017 02 31;344:24-37. Epub 2016 Oct 31.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy.

In the present study we examined the integrity of spatial and non-spatial multisensory cueing (MSC) mechanisms in unilateral CI users. We tested 17 unilateral CI users and 17 age-matched normal hearing (NH) controls in an elevation-discrimination task for visual targets delivered at peripheral locations. Visual targets were presented alone (visual-only condition) or together with abrupt sounds that matched or did not match the location of the visual targets (audio-visual conditions). All participants were also tested in simple pointing to free-field sounds task, to obtain a basic measure of their spatial hearing ability in the naturalistic environment in which the experiment was conducted. Hearing controls were tested both in binaural and monaural conditions. NH controls showed spatial MSC benefits (i.e., faster discrimination for visual targets that matched sound cues) both in the binaural and in the monaural hearing conditions. In addition, they showed non-spatial MSC benefits (i.e., faster discrimination responses in audio-visual conditions compared to visual-only conditions, regardless of sound cue location) in the monaural condition. Monaural CI users showed no spatial MSC benefits, but retained non-spatial MSC benefits comparable to that observed in NH controls tested monaurally. The absence of spatial MSC in CI users likely reflects the poor spatial hearing ability measured in these participants. These findings reveal the importance of studying the impact of CI re-afferentation beyond auditory processing alone, addressing in particular the fundamental mechanisms that serves orienting of multisensory attention in the environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.heares.2016.10.025DOI Listing
February 2017

The oculomotor salience of flicker, apparent motion and continuous motion in saccade trajectories.

Exp Brain Res 2017 01 28;235(1):181-191. Epub 2016 Sep 28.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Palazzo Fedrigotti, Corso Bettini 31, 38068, Rovereto, TN, Italy.

The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of dynamic distractors on the time-course of oculomotor selection using saccade trajectory deviations. Participants were instructed to make a speeded eye movement (pro-saccade) to a target presented above or below the fixation point while an irrelevant distractor was presented. Four types of distractors were varied within participants: (1) static, (2) flicker, (3) rotating apparent motion and (4) continuous motion. The eccentricity of the distractor was varied between participants. The results showed that saccadic trajectories curved towards distractors presented near the vertical midline; no reliable deviation was found for distractors presented further away from the vertical midline. Differences between the flickering and rotating distractor were found when distractor eccentricity was small and these specific effects developed over time such that there was a clear differentiation between saccadic deviation based on apparent motion for long-latency saccades, but not short-latency saccades. The present results suggest that the influence on performance of apparent motion stimuli is relatively delayed and acts in a more sustained manner compared to the influence of salient static, flickering and continuous moving stimuli.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4779-1DOI Listing
January 2017

Testing the idea of privileged awareness of self-relevant information.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2016 Mar 4;42(3):303-7. Epub 2016 Jan 4.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento.

Self-relevant information is prioritized in processing. Some have suggested the mechanism driving this advantage is akin to the automatic prioritization of physically salient stimuli in information processing (Humphreys & Sui, 2015). Here we investigate whether self-relevant information is prioritized for awareness under continuous flash suppression (CFS), as has been found for physical salience. Gabor patches with different orientations were first associated with the labels You or Other. Participants were more accurate in matching the self-relevant association, replicating previous findings of self-prioritization. However, breakthrough into awareness from CFS did not differ between self- and other-associated Gabors. These findings demonstrate that self-relevant information has no privileged access to awareness. Rather than modulating the initial visual processes that precede and lead to awareness, the advantage of self-relevant information may better be characterized as prioritization at later processing stages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000197DOI Listing
March 2016

Attentional orienting to social and nonsocial cues in early deaf adults.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2015 Dec 17;41(6):1758-71. Epub 2015 Aug 17.

Center for Mind Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento.

In 2 experiments we investigated attentional orienting to nonpredictive social and nonsocial cues in deaf observers. In Experiment 1a, 22 early deaf adults and 23 hearing controls performed a peripheral shape-discrimination task, while uninformative central gaze cues validly and invalidly cued the location of the target. As an adaptation to the lack of audition, we expected deaf adults to show a larger impact of gaze cuing on attentional orienting compared with hearing controls. However, contrary to our predictions, deaf participants did not respond faster to cued compared with uncued targets (gaze-cuing effect; GCE), and this behavior partly correlated with early sign language acquisition. Experiment 1b showed a reliable GCE in 13 hearing native signers, thus excluding a key role of early sign language acquisition in explaining the lack of GCE in the response times of deaf participants. To test whether the resistance to uninformative central cues extends to nonsocial cues, in Experiment 2 nonpredictive arrow cues were presented to 14 deaf and 14 hearing participants. Both groups of participants showed a comparable arrow-cuing effect. Together, our findings suggest that deafness may selectively limit attentional-orienting triggered by central irrelevant gaze cues. Possible implications for plasticity related to deafness are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000099DOI Listing
December 2015

Finding the balance between capture and control: Oculomotor selection in early deaf adults.

Brain Cogn 2015 Jun 29;96:12-27. Epub 2015 Mar 29.

Center for Mind Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Italy; Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, Italy.

Previous work investigating the consequence of bilateral deafness on attentional selection suggests that experience-dependent changes in this population may result in increased automatic processing of stimulus-driven visual information (e.g., saliency). However, adaptive behavior also requires observers to prioritize goal-driven information relevant to the task at hand. In order to investigate whether auditory deprivation alters the balance between these two components of attentional selection, we assessed the time-course of overt visual selection in deaf adults. Twenty early-deaf adults and twenty hearing controls performed an oculomotor additional singleton paradigm. Participants made a speeded eye-movement to a unique orientation target, embedded among homogenous non-targets and one additional unique orientation distractor that was more, equally or less salient than the target. Saliency was manipulated through color. For deaf participants proficiency in sign language was assessed. Overall, results showed that fast initiated saccades were saliency-driven, whereas later initiated saccades were goal-driven. However, deaf participants were overall slower than hearing controls at initiating saccades and also less captured by task-irrelevant salient distractors. The delayed oculomotor behavior of deaf adults was not explained by any of the linguistic measures acquired. Importantly, a multinomial model applied to the data revealed a comparable evolution over time of the underlying saliency- and goal-driven processes between the two groups, confirming the crucial role of saccadic latencies in determining the outcome of visual selection performance. The present findings indicate that prioritization of saliency-driven information is not an unavoidable phenomenon in deafness. Possible neural correlates of the documented behavioral effect are also discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2015.03.001DOI Listing
June 2015

Involuntary attentional capture by task-irrelevant objects that match the search template for category detection in natural scenes.

Atten Percept Psychophys 2015 May;77(4):1070-80

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Corso Bettini 31, 38068, Rovereto, TN, Italy.

Theories of visual search postulate that the selection of targets amongst distractors involves matching visual input to a top-down attentional template. Previous work has provided evidence that feature-based attentional templates affect visual processing globally across the visual field. In the present study, we asked whether more naturalistic, category-level attentional templates also modulate visual processing in a spatially global and obligatory way. Subjects were cued to detect people or cars in a diverse set of photographs of real-world scenes. On a subset of trials, silhouettes of people and cars appeared in search-irrelevant locations that subjects were instructed to ignore, and subjects were required to respond to the location of a subsequent dot probe. In three experiments, results showed a consistency effect on dot-probe trials: dot probes were detected faster when they appeared in the location of the cued category compared with the non-cued category, indicating attentional capture by template-matching stimuli. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that this capture was involuntary: consistency effects persisted under conditions in which attending to silhouettes of the cued category was detrimental to performance. Experiment 3 tested whether these effects could be attributed to non-attentional effects related to the processing of the category cues. Results showed a consistency effect when subjects searched for category exemplars but not when they searched for objects semantically related to the cued category. Together, these results indicate that attentional templates for familiar object categories affect visual processing across the visual field, leading to involuntary attentional capture by template-matching stimuli.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13414-015-0867-8DOI Listing
May 2015

The effects of saliency on manual reach trajectories and reach target selection.

Vision Res 2015 Aug 20;113(Pt B):179-87. Epub 2014 Dec 20.

Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l'Éducation, Université de Genève, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Reaching trajectories curve toward salient distractors, reflecting the competing activation of reach plans toward target and distractor stimuli. We investigated whether the relative saliency of target and distractor influenced the curvature of the movement and the selection of the final endpoint of the reach. Participants were asked to reach a bar tilted to the right in a context of gray vertical bars. A bar tilted to the left served as distractor. Relative stimulus saliency was varied via color: either the distractor was red and the target was gray, or vice versa. Throughout, we observed that reach trajectories deviated toward the distractor. Surprisingly, relative saliency had no effect on the curvature of reach trajectories. Moreover, when we increased time pressure in separate experiments and analyzed the curvature as a function of reaction time, no influence of relative stimulus saliency was found, not even for the fastest reaction times. If anything, curvature decreased with strong time pressure. In contrast, reach target selection under strong time pressure was influenced by relative saliency: reaches with short reaction times were likely to go to the red distractor. The time course of reach target selection was comparable to saccadic target selection. Implications for the neural basis of trajectory deviations and target selection in manual and eye movements are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2014.11.015DOI Listing
August 2015

Trading off stimulus salience for identity: A cueing approach to disentangle visual selection strategies.

Vision Res 2015 Aug 23;113(Pt B):116-24. Epub 2014 Aug 23.

Cimec (Center for Mind/Brain Sciences), University of Trento, Italy.

Recent studies show that time plays a primary role in determining whether visual selection is influenced by stimulus salience or guided by observers' intentions. Accordingly, when a response is made seems critically important in defining the outcome of selection. The present study investigates whether observers are able to control the timing of selection and regulate the trade-off between stimulus- and goal-driven influences. One experiment was conducted in which participants were asked to make a saccade to the target, a tilted bar embedded in a matrix of vertical lines. An additional distractor, more or less salient than the target, was presented concurrently with the search display. To manipulate when in time the response was given we cued participants before each trial to be either fast or accurate. Participants received periodic feedback regarding performance speed and accuracy. The results showed participants were able to control the timing of selection: the distribution of responses was relatively fast or slow depending on the cue. Performance in the fast-cue condition appeared to be primarily driven by stimulus salience, while in the accurate-cue condition saccades were guided by the search template. Examining the distribution of responses that temporally overlapped between the two cue conditions revealed a main effect of cue. This suggests the cue had an additional benefit to performance independent of the effect of salience. These findings show that although early selection may be constrained by stimulus salience, observers are flexible in guiding the 'when' signal and consequently establishing a trade-off between saliency and identity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2014.08.003DOI Listing
August 2015

Stimulus- and goal-driven control of eye movements: action videogame players are faster but not better.

Atten Percept Psychophys 2014 Nov;76(8):2398-412

Center for Mind Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Trento, Italy,

Action videogame players (AVGPs) have been shown to outperform nongamers (NVGPs) in covert visual attention tasks. These advantages have been attributed to improved top-down control in this population. The time course of visual selection, which permits researchers to highlight when top-down strategies start to control performance, has rarely been investigated in AVGPs. Here, we addressed specifically this issue through an oculomotor additional-singleton paradigm. Participants were instructed to make a saccadic eye movement to a unique orientation singleton. The target was presented among homogeneous nontargets and one additional orientation singleton that was more, equally, or less salient than the target. Saliency was manipulated in the color dimension. Our results showed similar patterns of performance for both AVGPs and NVGPs: Fast-initiated saccades were saliency-driven, whereas later-initiated saccades were more goal-driven. However, although AVGPs were faster than NVGPs, they were also less accurate. Importantly, a multinomial model applied to the data revealed comparable underlying saliency-driven and goal-driven functions for the two groups. Taken together, the observed differences in performance are compatible with the presence of a lower decision bound for releasing saccades in AVGPs than in NVGPs, in the context of comparable temporal interplay between the underlying attentional mechanisms. In sum, the present findings show that in both AVGPs and NVGPs, the implementation of top-down control in visual selection takes time to come about, and they argue against the idea of a general enhancement of top-down control in AVGPs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13414-014-0736-xDOI Listing
November 2014

The impact of predictive cues and visual working memory on dynamic oculomotor selection.

J Vis 2014 Mar 24;14(3):27. Epub 2014 Mar 24.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Trento, Italy.

Strategic use of advanced information about search display properties can benefit covert attentional selection. However, little work has investigated this benefit on overt selection. The present study examined how cued information impacts oculomotor selection over time and the role played by individual differences in visual working memory (VWM) capacity in utilizing such cues. Participants searched for a specific orientation target in a saccade localization search task. Prior to each trial, additional information regarding secondary display features (color singleton identity) was either provided by a word cue or not. The cue increased accuracy performance from the earliest saccadic responses. VWM capacity was measured via a change-detection task and results showed that individuals' VWM capacity scores were associated with cue impact, whereby participants with higher capacity derived an increased cue performance benefit. These findings suggest that strategic use of cue information to select and reject salient singletons can develop very early following display presentation and is related to an individual's VWM capacity. This research indicates that stimulus-driven and goal-directed processes are not simply additive in oculomotor selection, but instead exhibit a distinct and dynamic profile of interaction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/14.3.27DOI Listing
March 2014

Reward-associated stimuli capture the eyes in spite of strategic attentional set.

Vision Res 2013 Nov 29;92:67-74. Epub 2013 Sep 29.

VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Italy. Electronic address:

Theories of reinforcement learning have proposed that the association of reward to visual stimuli may cause these objects to become fundamentally salient and thus attention-drawing. A number of recent studies have investigated the oculomotor correlates of this reward-priming effect, but there is some ambiguity in this literature regarding the involvement of top-down attentional set. Existing paradigms tend to create a situation where participants are actively looking for a reward-associated stimulus before subsequently showing that this selective bias sustains when it no longer has strategic purpose. This perseveration of attentional set is potentially different in nature than the direct impact of reward proposed by theory. Here we investigate the effect of reward on saccadic selection in a paradigm where strategic attentional set is decoupled from the effect of reward. We find that during search for a uniquely oriented target, the receipt of reward following selection of a target characterized by an irrelevant unique color causes subsequent stimuli characterized by this color to be preferentially selected. Importantly, this occurs regardless of whether the color characterizes the target or distractor. Other analyses demonstrate that only features associated with correct selection of the target prime the target representation, and that the magnitude of this effect can be predicted by variability in saccadic indices of feedback processing. These results add to a growing literature demonstrating that reward guides visual selection, often in spite of our strategic efforts otherwise.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2013.09.008DOI Listing
November 2013

Gender and facial dominance in gaze cuing: emotional context matters in the eyes that we follow.

PLoS One 2013 3;8(4):e59471. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Gaze following is a socio-cognitive process that provides adaptive information about potential threats and opportunities in the individual's environment. The aim of the present study was to investigate the potential interaction between emotional context and facial dominance in gaze following. We used the gaze cue task to induce attention to or away from the location of a target stimulus. In the experiment, the gaze cue either belonged to a (dominant looking) male face or a (non-dominant looking) female face. Critically, prior to the task, individuals were primed with pictures of threat or no threat to induce either a dangerous or safe environment. Findings revealed that the primed emotional context critically influenced the gaze cuing effect. While a gaze cue of the dominant male face influenced performance in both the threat and no-threat conditions, the gaze cue of the non-dominant female face only influenced performance in the no-threat condition. This research suggests an implicit, context-dependent follower bias, which carries implications for research on visual attention, social cognition, and leadership.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0059471PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3616071PMC
October 2013

In defense of the salience map: salience rather than visibility determines selection.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2013 Dec 11;39(6):1516-24. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

Department of Cognitive Psychology, VU University.

The aim of the present study was to investigate whether time-dependent biases of oculomotor selection as typically observed during visual search are better accounted for by an absolute-processing-speed account (J. P. de Vries, I. T. C. Hooge, M. A. Wiering, & F. A. J. Verstraten, 2011, How longer saccade latencies lead to a competition for salience. Psychological Science, 22, 916-923) or a relative-salience account (e.g., M. Donk, & W. van Zoest, 2008, Effects of salience are short-lived. Psychological Science, 19, 733-739; M. Donk & W. van Zoest, 2011, No control in orientation search: The effects of instruction on oculomotor selection in visual search. Vision Research, 51, 2156-2166). In order to test these two models, we performed an experiment in which participants were instructed to make a speeded eye movement to any of two orientation singletons presented among a homogeneous set of vertically oriented background lines. One singleton, the fixed singleton, remained identical across conditions, whereas the other singleton, the variable singleton, varied such that its orientation contrast relative to the background lines was either smaller or larger than that of the fixed singleton. The results showed that the proportion of eye movements directed toward the fixed singleton varied substantially depending on the orientation contrast of the variable singleton. A model assuming selection behavior to be determined by relative salience provided a better fit to the individual data than the absolute processing speed model. These findings suggest that relative salience rather than the visibility of an element is crucial in determining temporal variations in oculomotor selection behavior and that an explanation of visual selection behavior is insufficient without the concept of a salience map.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0032182DOI Listing
December 2013

Stimulus-salience and the time-course of saccade trajectory deviations.

J Vis 2012 Aug 24;12(8):16. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, TN, Italy.

The deviation of a saccade trajectory is a measure of the oculomotor competition evoked by a distractor. The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of stimulus-salience on the time-course of saccade trajectory deviations to get a better insight into how stimulus-salience influences oculomotor competition over time. Two experiments were performed in which participants were required to make a vertical saccade to a target presented in an array of nontarget line elements and one additional distractor. The distractor varied in salience, where salience was defined by an orientation contrast relative to the surrounding nontargets. In Experiment 2, target-distractor similarity was additionally manipulated. In both Experiments 1 and 2, the results revealed that the eyes deviated towards the irrelevant distractor and did so more when the distractor was salient compared to when it was not salient. Critically, salience influenced performance only when people were fast to elicit an eye movement and had no effect when saccade latencies were long. Target-distractor similarity did not influence this pattern. These results show that the impact of salience in the visual system is transient.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/12.8.16DOI Listing
August 2012

The influence of visual search efficiency on the time-course of identity-based SR-compatibility.

Acta Psychol (Amst) 2012 May 20;140(1):101-9. Epub 2012 Apr 20.

Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Three experiments were conducted to investigate the impact of stimulus-driven control on the time-course of stimulus-response (SR) compatibility. Participants responded to the presence or absence of a singleton arrow that was presented among multiple nontargets. When the singleton arrow was present, observers pressed a button with their right index finger, when it was absent they pressed with their left-index finger. SR-compatibility depended on the relation between the identity of the target and the present response: Even though the identity of the target singleton arrow (whether it was pointing to the right or left) was irrelevant to the task, the direction could be corresponding (right arrow) or noncorresponding (left arrow) with a target present response (the right hand). To examine the time-course of performance target-distractor similarity was varied to increase or decrease visual search efficiency and accordingly response latency. There were three main findings. First, the results of Experiment 1 showed that observers were no faster to respond 'present' when the singleton arrow pointed to the right (corresponding to the right hand) than when it pointed left (noncorresponding to the right hand) in a simple present-absent detection task. Second, only when observers were encouraged to process the identity of the arrow singleton, an effect of an SR-compatibility effect was found which developed over time. Third, the time-course of SR-compatibility was not influenced by visual search efficiency. The results of the present work suggest that visual selection and response selection occur in different stages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.03.002DOI Listing
May 2012

Reward creates oculomotor salience.

Curr Biol 2012 Apr;22(7):R219-20

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.007DOI Listing
April 2012

Oculomotor evidence for top-down control following the initial saccade.

PLoS One 2011 8;6(9):e23552. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The goal of the current study was to investigate how salience-driven and goal-driven processes unfold during visual search over multiple eye movements. Eye movements were recorded while observers searched for a target, which was located on (Experiment 1) or defined as (Experiment 2) a specific orientation singleton. This singleton could either be the most, medium, or least salient element in the display. Results were analyzed as a function of response time separately for initial and second eye movements. Irrespective of the search task, initial saccades elicited shortly after the onset of the search display were primarily salience-driven whereas initial saccades elicited after approximately 250 ms were completely unaffected by salience. Initial saccades were increasingly guided in line with task requirements with increasing response times. Second saccades were completely unaffected by salience and were consistently goal-driven, irrespective of response time. These results suggest that stimulus-salience affects the visual system only briefly after a visual image enters the brain and has no effect thereafter.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023552PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3169564PMC
February 2012

No control in orientation search: the effects of instruction on oculomotor selection in visual search.

Vision Res 2011 Oct 22;51(19):2156-66. Epub 2011 Aug 22.

Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The present study aimed to investigate whether people can selectively use salience information in search for a target. Observers were presented with a display consisting of multiple homogeneously oriented background lines and two orientation singletons. The orientation singletons differed in salience, where salience was defined by their orientation contrast relative to the background lines. Observers had the task to make a speeded eye movement towards a target, which was either the most or the least salient element of the two orientation singletons. The specific orientation of the target was either constant or variable over a block of trials such that observers had varying knowledge concerning the target identity. The results demonstrated that instruction - whether people were instructed to move to the most or the least salient item - only minimally affected the results. Short-latency eye movements were completely salience driven; here it did not matter whether people were searching for the most or least salient element. Long-latency eye movements were marginally affected by instruction, in particular when observers knew the target identity. These results suggest that even though people use salience information in oculomotor selection, they cannot use this information in a goal-driven manner. The results are discussed in terms of current models on visual selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2011.08.013DOI Listing
October 2011

Saccadic eye movements and perceptual judgments reveal a shared visual representation that is increasingly accurate over time.

Vision Res 2011 Jan 15;51(1):111-9. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Although there is evidence to suggest visual illusions affect perceptual judgments more than actions, many studies have failed to detect task-dependant dissociations. In two experiments we attempt to resolve the contradiction by exploring the time-course of visual illusion effects on both saccadic eye movements and perceptual judgments, using the Judd illusion. The results showed that, regardless of whether a saccadic response or a perceptual judgement was made, the illusory bias was larger when responses were based on less information, that is, when saccadic latencies were short, or display duration was brief. The time-course of the effect was similar for both the saccadic responses and perceptual judgements, suggesting that both modes may be driven by a shared visual representation. Changes in the strength of the illusion over time also highlight the importance of controlling for the latency of different response systems when evaluating possible dissociations between them.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2010.10.013DOI Listing
January 2011

Awareness of the saccade goal in oculomotor selection: your eyes go before you know.

Conscious Cogn 2010 Dec 24;19(4):861-71. Epub 2010 Apr 24.

Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The aim of the present study was to investigate how saccadic selection relates to people's awareness of the saliency and identity of a saccade goal. Observers were instructed to make an eye movement to either the most salient line segment (Experiment 1) or the only right-tilted element (Experiment 2) in a visual search display. The display was masked contingent on the first eye movement and after each trial observers indicated whether or not they had correctly selected the target. Whereas people's awareness concerning the saliency of the saccade goal was generally low, their awareness concerning the identity was high. Observers' awareness of the saccade goal was not related to saccadic performance. Whereas saccadic selection consistently varied as a function of saccade latency, people's awareness concerning the saliency or identity of the saccade goal did not. The results suggest that saccadic selection is primarily driven by subconscious processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2010.04.001DOI Listing
December 2010