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Jolande Fooken, Sang-Hoon Yeo, Dinesh K. Pai, Miriam Spering; Eye movement accuracy determines natural interception strategies. Journal of Vision 2016;16(14):1. doi: 10.1167/16.14.1.
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Eye movements aid visual perception and guide actions such as reaching or grasping. Most previous work on eye-hand coordination has focused on saccadic eye movements. Here we show that smooth pursuit eye movement accuracy strongly predicts both interception accuracy and the strategy used to intercept a moving object. We developed a naturalistic task in which participants (n = 42 varsity baseball players) intercepted a moving dot (a “2D fly ball”) with their index finger in a designated “hit zone.” Participants were instructed to track the ball with their eyes, but were only shown its initial launch (100–300 ms). Better smooth pursuit resulted in more accurate interceptions and determined the strategy used for interception, i.e., whether interception was early or late in the hit zone. Even though early and late interceptors showed equally accurate interceptions, they may have relied on distinct tactics: early interceptors used cognitive heuristics, whereas late interceptors' performance was best predicted by pursuit accuracy. Late interception may be beneficial in real-world tasks as it provides more time for decision and adjustment. Supporting this view, baseball players who were more senior were more likely to be late interceptors. Our findings suggest that interception strategies are optimally adapted to the proficiency of the pursuit system.
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