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Jit Wei Ang, Gerrit Maus; Performance boost after eye blinks in object recognition tasks. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):638. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.638.
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Eye blinks occur at consistent time points and may indicate switches between large scale cortical networks, such as dorsal attention and default-mode networks (Nakano et al., 2013. PNAS 110(2), 702–706). This could presumably lead to a refresh of attention whenever the dorsal attention network is reactivated after a blink. Previously, Ang and Maus (VSS, 2018) tested the effect of blinks on visual attention performance with several rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) tasks. Participants had to identify a target embedded in a random stream of distractors, presented for 60 ms each. Participants (N = 40) blinked once during the presentation stream. In a separate condition, blinks were simulated by shutter glasses. They found enhancements of performance (up to 15%-point increase in accuracy) for targets appearing up to 270 ms after eyeblinks. This was replicated for object recognition with naturalistic stimuli but not in a numerosity task and spatially distributed stimuli. Here, we followed up the study to address several concerns. We 1) completely randomised the target to appear anywhere before and after an eye blink, 2) increased the sample size to N = 118, and 3) introduced an additional control condition in which participants triggered the shutter glasses manually. The results confirmed a sustained boost of perceptual performance after voluntary eye blinks as compared to artificial blinks. This further supports the notion that eye blinks have a cognitive and perceptual consequences over and above the brief disruption of the visual input.
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