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Jit Wei A. Ang, Gerrit W. Maus; Boosted visual performance after eye blinks. Journal of Vision 2020;20(10):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.10.2.
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We blink more often than required for maintaining the corneal tear film. Whether there are perceptual or cognitive consequences of blinks that may justify their high frequency is unclear. Previous findings showed that blinks may indicate switches between large-scale cortical networks, such as dorsal attention and default-mode networks. Thus, blinks may trigger a refresh of visual attention. Yet, this has so far not been confirmed behaviorally. Here, we tested the effect of blinks on visual performance in a series of rapid serial visual presentation tasks. In Experiment 1, participants had to identify a target digit embedded in a random stream of letter distractors, presented foveally for 60 ms each. Participants blinked once during the presentation stream. In a separate condition, blinks were simulated by shutter glasses. Detection performance was enhanced (up to 13% point increase in accuracy) for targets appearing up to 300 ms after eye blinks. Performance boosts were stronger for voluntary blinks than artificial blinks. This performance boost was also replicated with more naturalistic stimuli (Experiment 2). We conclude that eye blinks lead to attentional benefits for object recognition in the period after reopening of the eyelids and may be used strategically for temporarily boosting visual performance.
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