Oculomotor measures reveal the temporal dynamics of preparing for search

K. Olmos Solis, A.M. van Loon, S.A. Los, C.N.L. Olivers

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Theories of visual search assume that selection is driven by an active template representation of the target object. Earlier studies suggest that template activation occurs prior to search, but the temporal dynamics of such preactivation remain unclear. Two experiments employed microsaccades to track both general preparation (i.e., anticipation of the search task as such) and template-specific preparation (i.e., anticipation of target selection) of visual search. Participants memorized a target color (i.e., the template) for an upcoming search task. During the delay period, we presented an irrelevant rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) of lateralized colored disks. Crucially, at different time points into the RSVP, the template color was inserted, allowing us to measure attentional biases toward the template match as a function of time. Results showed a general suppression of saccades: the closer in time to the search display, the less saccades were produced. This suppression was stronger when a template-matching color was present compared to when absent. However, when microsaccades occurred, they were biased toward the template-matching color and more so just prior to the search display. We conclude that observers adapt search template activation to the anticipated moment of search, and that microsaccades reflect general as well as target-specific preparation effects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTemporal Sampling and Representation Updating
EditorsChristina J. Howard
PublisherArbeiderspers / ScienceDirect
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780128134504
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123


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