Visual attention and stability

S. Mathot, J. Theeuwes

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the present review, we address the relationship between attention and visual stability. Even though with each eye, head and body movement the retinal image changes dramatically, we perceive the world as stable and are able to perform visually guided actions. However, visual stability is not as complete as introspection would lead us to believe. We attend to only a few items at a time and stability is maintained only for those items. There appear to be two distinct mechanisms underlying visual stability. The first is a passive mechanism: the visual system assumes the world to be stable, unless there is a clear discrepancy between the pre-and post-saccadic image of the region surrounding the saccade target. This is related to the pre-saccadic shift of attention, which allows for an accurate preview of the saccade target. The second is an active mechanism: information about attended objects is remapped within retinotopic maps to compensate for eye movements. The locus of attention itself, which is also characterized by localized retinotopic activity, is remapped as well. We conclude that visual attention is crucial in our perception of a stable world. This journal is © 2011 The Royal Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-527
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1564
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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