People are unable to accurately report on their own eye movements most of the time. Can this be explained as a lack of attention to the objects we fixate? Here we elicited eye movement errors using the classic oculomotor capture paradigm, in which people tend to look at sudden onsets even when they are irrelevant. In the first experiment, participants were able to report their own errors on about a quarter of the trials on which they occurred. The aim of the second experiment was to assess what differentiates errors that are detected from those that are not. Specifically, we estimated the relative influence of two possible factors: how long the onset distractor was fixated (dwell time), and a measure of how much attention was allocated to the onset distractor. Longer dwell times were associated with awareness of the error, but the measure of attention was not. The effect of the distractor identity on target discrimination reaction time was similar whether or not the participant was aware they had fixated the distractor. The results suggest both attentional and oculomotor capture can occur in the absence of awareness, and have important implications for our understanding of the relationship between attention, eye movements, and awareness.
- eye movements and visual attention
- visual awareness