Conditional control in visual selection

Wieske van Zoest*, Stefan Van der Stigchel, Mieke Donk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Attention and eye movements provide a window into the selective processing of visual information. Evidence suggests that selection is influenced by various factors and is not always under the strategic control of the observer. The aims of this tutorial review are to give a brief introduction to eye movements and attention and to outline the conditions that help determine control. Evidence suggests that the ability to establish control depends on the complexity of the display as well as the point in time at which selection occurs. Stimulus-driven selection is more probable in simple displays than in complex natural scenes, but it critically depends on the timing of the response: Salience determines selection only when responses are triggered quickly following display presentation, and plays no role in longer-latency responses. The time course of selection is also important for the relationship between attention and eye movements. Specifically, attention and eye movements appear to act independently when oculomotor selection is quick, whereas attentional processes are able to influence oculomotor control when saccades are triggered only later in time. This relationship may also be modulated by whether the eye movement is controlled in a voluntary or an involuntary manner. To conclude, we present evidence that shows that visual control is limited in flexibility and that the mechanisms of selection are constrained by context and time. The outcome of visual selection changes with the situational context, and knowing the constraints of control is necessary to understanding when and how visual selection is truly controlled by the observer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1555-1572
Number of pages18
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number6
Early online date6 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Eye movements
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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