To look or not to look: Subliminal abrupt-onset cues influence constrained free-choice saccades
Subliminal cues have been shown to capture attention and modulate manual response behaviour but their impact on eye movement behaviour is not well-studied. In two experiments, we examined if subliminal cues influence constrained free-choice saccades and if this influence is under strategic control as a function of task-relevancy of the cues. On each trial, a display containing four filled circles at the centre of each quadrant was shown. A central coloured circle indicated the relevant visual field on each trial (Up or Down in Experiment 1; Left or Right in Experiment 2). Next, abrupt-onset cues were presented for 16 ms at one of the four locations. Participants were then asked to freely choose and make a saccade to one of the two target circles in the relevant visual field. The analysis of the frequency of saccades, saccade endpoint deviation and saccade latency revealed a significant influence of the relevant subliminal cues on saccadic decisions. Latency data showed reduced capture by spatially-irrelevant cues under some conditions. These results indicate that spatial attentional control settings as defined in our study could modulate the influence of subliminal abrupt-onset cues on eye movement behaviour. We situate the findings of this study in the attention-capture debate and discuss the implications for the subliminal cueing literature.
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