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Effects of directional expectations on motion perception and pursuit eye movements

    • Published online: 01 September 2001

Expectations about future motions can influence both perceptual judgements and pursuit eye movements. However, it is not known whether these two effects are due to shared processing, or to separate mechanisms with similar properties. We have addressed this question by providing subjects with prior information about the likely direction of motion in an upcoming random-dot motion display and measuring both the perceptual judgements and pursuit eye movements elicited by the stimulus. We quantified the subjects' responses by computing oculometric curves from their pursuit eye movements and psychometric curves from their perceptual decisions. Our results show that directional cues caused similar shifts in both the oculometric and psychometric curves toward the expected motion direction, with little change in the shapes of the curves. Prior information therefore biased the outcome of both eye movement and perceptual decisions without systematically changing their thresholds. We also found that eye movement and perceptual decisions tended to be the same on a trial-by-trial basis, at a higher frequency than would be expected by chance. Furthermore, the effects of prior information were evident during pursuit initiation, as well as during pursuit maintenance, indicating that prior information likely influenced the early processing of visual motion. We conclude that, in our experiments, expectations caused similar effects on both pursuit and perception by altering the activity of visual motion detectors that are read out by both the oculomotor and perceptual systems. Applying cognitive factors such as expectations at relatively early stages of visual processing could act to coordinate the metrics of eye movements with perceptual judgements.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Richard J. Krauzlis, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. E-mail:
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Visual Neuroscience
  • ISSN: 0952-5238
  • EISSN: 1469-8714
  • URL: /core/journals/visual-neuroscience
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