When do microsaccades follow spatial attention?

Jochen Laubrock, Reinhold Kliegl, Martin Rolfs, Ralf Engbert

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Following up on an exchange about the relation between microsaccades and spatial attention (Horowitz, Fenc- sik, Fine, Yurgenson, & Wolfe, 2007; Horowitz, Fine, Fencsik, Yurgenson, & Wolfe, 2007; Laubrock, Engbert, Rolfs, & Kliegl, 2007), we examine the effects of selection criteria and response modality. We show that for Posner cuing with saccadic responses, microsaccades go with attention in at least 75% of cases (almost 90% if probability matching is assumed) when they are first (or only) microsaccades in the cue–target interval and when they occur between 200 and 400 msec after the cue. The relation between spatial attention and the direction of microsaccades drops to chance level for unselected microsaccades collected during manual-response conditions. Analyses of data from four cross-modal cuing experiments demonstrate an above-chance, intermediate link for visual cues, but no systematic relation for auditory cues. Thus, the link between spatial attention and direction of microsaccades depends on the experimental condition and time of occurrence, but it can be very strong.

Laubrock, J., Kliegl, R., Rolfs, M. & Engbert, R. (2010). When do microsaccades follow spatial attention? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72, 683-694.