Efficient saccade planning requires time and clear choices

Journal Article


We use eye movements constantly to gather information. Saccades are efficient when they maximize the information required for the task, however there is controversy regarding the efficiency of eye movement planning. For example, saccades are efficient when searching for a single target (Nature, 434 (2005) 387-391), but are inefficient when searching for an unknown number of targets in noise, particularly under time pressure (Vision Research 74 (2012), 61-71). In this study, we used a multiple-target search paradigm and explored whether altering the noise level or increasing saccadic latency improved efficiency. Experiments used stimuli with two levels of discriminability such that saccades to the less discriminable stimuli provided more information. When these two noise levels corresponded to low and moderate visibility, most observers did not preferentially select informative locations, but looked at uncertain and probable target locations equally often. We then examined whether eye movements could be made more efficient by increasing the discriminability of the two stimulus levels and by delaying the first saccade so that there was more time for decision processes to influence the saccade choices. Some observers did indeed increase the proportion of their saccades to informative locations under these conditions. Others, however, made as many saccades as they could during the limited time and were unselective about the saccade goal. A clear trend that emerges across all experiments is that conditions with a greater proportion of efficient saccades are associated with a longer latency to initiate saccades, suggesting that the choice of informative locations requires deliberate planning.


Vision research



Number of Pages


Year of Publication



Ghahghaei, Saiedeh Verghese, Preeti R01 EY022394/EY/NEI NIH HHS/ England Vision Res. 2015 Aug;113(Pt B):125-36. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2015.05.006. Epub 2015 May 30.