ICAT: A Computational Model for the Adaptive Control of Fixation Durations

Hans Trukenbrod, Ralf Engbert

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Eye movements depend on cognitive processes related to visual information processing. Much has been learned about the spatial selection of fixation locations, while the principles governing the temporal control (fixation durations) are less clear. Here we review current theories for the control of fixation durations in tasks like visual search, scanning, scene perception, and reading and propose a new model for the control of fixation durations. We distinguish two local principles from one global principle of control. First, an autonomous saccade timer initiates saccades after random time intervals (Local-I). Second, foveal inhibition permits immediate prolongation of fixation durations by ongoing processing (Local-II). Third, saccade timing is adaptive, so that the mean timer value depends on task requirements and fixation history (Global). We demonstrate by numerical simulations that our model qualitatively reproduces patterns of mean fixation durations and fixation duration distributions observed in typical experiments. When combined with assumptions of saccade-target selection and oculomotor control, the model accounts for both temporal and spatial aspects of eye-movement control in two versions of a visual search task. We conclude that the model provides a promising framework for the control of fixation durations in saccadic tasks.

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review