Spatial inhibition of return as a function of fixation history, task, and spatial references

Jasper H Fabius, Martijn J Schut, Stefan Van der Stigchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In oculomotor selection, each saccade is thought to be automatically biased toward uninspected locations, inhibiting the inefficient behavior of repeatedly refixating the same objects. This automatic bias is related to inhibition of return (IOR). Although IOR seems an appealing property that increases efficiency in visual search, such a mechanism would not be efficient in other tasks. Indeed, evidence for additional, more flexible control over refixations has been provided. Here, we investigated whether task demands implicitly affect the rate of refixations. We measured the probability of refixations after series of six binary saccadic decisions under two conditions: visual search and free viewing. The rate of refixations seems influenced by two effects. One effect is related to the rate of intervening fixations, specifically, more refixations were observed with more intervening fixations. In addition, we observed an effect of task set, with fewer refixations in visual search than in free viewing. Importantly, the history-related effect was more pronounced when sufficient spatial references were provided, suggesting that this effect is dependent on spatiotopic encoding of previously fixated locations. This known history-related bias in gaze direction is not the primary influence on the refixation rate. Instead, multiple factors, such as task set and spatial references, assert strong influences as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1633-41
Number of pages9
JournalAttention, perception, & psychophysics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


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