Reinforcement reduces the size–latency phenomenon: A cost– benefit evaluation of saccade triggering

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publication: Journal of Vision, Volume 19, Issue 16, p.1-9 (2019)

Saccadic latencies are known to change as a function of target eccentricity and size. Recently, it has been shown that latencies consistently change according to the amplitude of the step in proportion to the size of the target (Madelain, Krauzlis, & Wallman, 2005; Harwood, Madelain, Krauzlis, & Wallman, 2008; De Vries, Azadi, & Harwood, 2016). This effect, called thesize–latency phenomenon, might be seen as a function of a cost–benefit relationship: Longer latencies might be explained by the lower benefit of making a saccade while the target mostly remains within the attentional field. Here, we probe this hypothesis by manipulating the cost–benefit relationship using a reinforcement procedure. Participants tracked a target stepping horizontally with varying amplitudes and sizes such that the step- to-size ratio was equal to either 0.3 or 1.5. We used a dynamic-reinforcement criterion in the blocked conditions. In the 0.3-ratio condition, any latency shorter than the criterion was reinforced. In the 1.5- ratio condition, any latency longer than the criterion was reinforced. During baseline, we observed the size–latency effect with large differences in latencies depending on the ratio in force (229 and 161 ms, respectively, for 0.3 and 1.5). After learning, distributions shifted toward the shorter or longer value (198 and 236 ms, respectively, for 0.3 and 1.5). On average, latencies decreased by 31 ms and increased by 75 ms according to the ongoing reinforcement contingencies. Our results indicate that reinforcement contingencies can considerably affect saccadic-latency distributions, and support the idea of a cost–benefit evaluation of saccade triggering.