Human vision involves selectively directing the eyes to potential objects of interest. According to most prominent theories, selection is the quantal outcome of an ongoing competition between saliency-driven signals on the one hand, and relevance-driven signals on the other, with both types of signals continuously and concurrently projecting onto a common priority map. Here, we challenge this view. We asked participants to make a speeded eye movement towards a target orientation, which was presented together with a non-target of opposing tilt. In addition to the difference in relevance, the target and non-target also differed in saliency, with the target being either more or less salient than the non-target. We demonstrate that saliency- and relevance-driven eye movements have highly idiosyncratic temporal profiles, with saliency-driven eye movements occurring rapidly after display onset while relevance-driven eye movements occur only later. Remarkably, these types of eye movements can be fully separated in time: We find that around 250 ms after display onset, eye movements are no longer driven by saliency differences between potential targets, but also not yet driven by relevance information, resulting in a period of non-selectivity, which we refer to as the attentional limbo. Binomial modeling further confirmed that visual selection is not necessarily the outcome of a direct battle between saliency- and relevance-driven signals. Instead, selection reflects the dynamic changes in the underlying saliency- and relevance-driven processes themselves, and the time at which an action is initiated then determines which of the two will emerge as the driving force of behavior.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was funded by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; grant 453–16-002, to C.N.L.O.).
© 2022, The Author(s).
- Eye movements
- Goal-driven selection
- Priority map
- Saliency-driven selection
- Visual search
- Goal-driven Selection
- Priority Map
- Visual Search
- Saliency-driven Selection
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)