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Daniel Säfström, Roland S. Johansson, J. Randall Flanagan; Gaze behavior when learning to link sequential action phases in a manual task. Journal of Vision 2014;14(4):3. doi: 10.1167/14.4.3.
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Most manual tasks comprise a sequence of action phases. Skill acquisition in such tasks involves a transition from reactive control, whereby motor commands for the next phase are triggered by sensory events signaling completion of the current phase, to predictive control, whereby commands for the next phase are launched in anticipation of these events. Here we investigated gaze behavior associated with such learning. Participants moved a cursor to successively acquire visual targets, as quickly as possible, by actively keeping the cursor within the target zone (hold phase) for a required duration, before moving to the next target (transport phase). Distinct visual and auditory events marked completion of each phase and, with learning, the launching of the transport phase shifted from being reactively to predictively controlled. Initially, gaze was directed to the current target throughout the hold phase, allowing visual feedback control of the cursor position, and shifted to the next target in synchrony with the cursor. However, with learning, two distinct gaze behaviors emerged. Gaze either shifted to the next target well before the end of the hold phase, facilitating planning of the forthcoming cursor movement, or shifted to the next target after the cursor, enabling cursor exits to be monitored in central vision. These results suggest that, with learning, gaze behavior changes to support evolving task demands, and that people distribute different gaze behaviors across repetitions of the task.
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