Oculomotor consequences of abrupt object onsets and offsets: Onsets dominate oculomotor capture

Walter R. Boot, Arthur F. Kramer, Matthew S. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Previous research has shown that the appearance of an object (onset) and the disappearance of an object (offset) have the ability to influence the allocation of covert attention. To determine whether both onsets and offsets have the ability to influence eye movements, a series of experiments was conducted in which participants had to make goal-directed eye movements to a color singleton target in the presence of an irrelevant onset/offset. In accord with previous research, onsets had the ability to capture the eyes. The offset of an object demonstrated little or no ability to interrupt goal-directed eye movements to the target. Two experiments in which the effects of onsets and offsets on covert attention were examined suggest that offsets do not capture the eyes, because they have a lesser ability to capture covert attention than do onsets. A number of other studies that have shown strong effects of offsets on attention have used offsets that were uncorrelated with target position (i.e., nonpredictive), whereas we used onsets and offsets that never served as targets (i.e., antipredictive). The present results are consistent with a new-object theory of attentional capture in which onsets receive attentional priority over other types of changes in the visual environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)910-928
Number of pages19
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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