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Chia-Chien Wu, Eileen Kowler; Timing of saccadic eye movements during visual search for multiple targets. Journal of Vision 2013;13(11):11. doi: 10.1167/13.11.11.
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Visual search requires sequences of saccades. Many studies have focused on spatial aspects of saccadic decisions, while relatively few (e.g., Hooge & Erkelens, 1999) consider timing. We studied saccadic timing during search for targets (thin circles containing tilted lines) located among nontargets (thicker circles). Tasks required either (a) estimating the mean tilt of the lines, or (b) looking at targets without a concurrent psychophysical task. The visual similarity of targets and nontargets affected both the probability of hitting a target and the saccade rate in both tasks. Saccadic timing also depended on immediate conditions, specifically, (a) the type of currently fixated location (dwell time was longer on targets than nontargets), (b) the type of goal (dwell time was shorter prior to saccades that hit targets), and (c) the ordinal position of the saccade in the sequence. The results show that timing decisions take into account the difficulty of finding targets, as well as the cost of delays. Timing strategies may be a compromise between the attempt to find and locate targets, or other suitable landing locations, using eccentric vision (at the cost of increased dwell times) versus a strategy of exploring less selectively at a rapid rate.
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