Carrick Institute

Eye movements and the decision-making process

A research team from the University of British Columbia in Canada explored whether eye movements are the consequence of decision-making, coming after the decision is made, or if they reflect making a choice and occur before the decision is made.

In this study, a group of young adult volunteers participated in a tracking activity in which an animated ball moved across a computer screen. In a go/no-go interception task human observers judged whether a briefly-presented moving target would pass (interceptive hand movement required) or miss (no hand movement required) a strike box while their eye and hand movements were recorded. Go/no-go decision formation had to occur within the first few hundred milliseconds to allow time-critical interception.

The research team found that “eye movements distinguished go/no-go actions early in the decision process, before the hand first started to move.” Whereas higher eye velocity during smooth pursuit initiation was related to more accurate interception decisions (whether or not to act), faster pursuit maintenance was associated with more accurate timing decisions (when to act). These results indicate that pursuit initiation and maintenance are continuously linked to ongoing sensorimotor decision formation.

“Eye movements as a readout of sensorimotor decision processes”. Jolande Fooken and Miriam Spering.

Journal of Neurophysiology (JNP) doi:10.1152/jn.00622.2019.

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