Perceiving stimulus displacements across saccades

David E Irwin, Maria M. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The visual world appears stable despite frequent retinal image movements caused by saccades. Many theories of visual stability assume that extraretinal eye position information is used to spatially adjust perceived locations across saccades, whereas others have proposed that visual stability depends upon coding of the relative positions of objects. McConkie and Currie (1996) proposed a refined combination of these views (called the Saccade Target Object Theory) in which the perception of stability across saccades relies on a local evaluation process centred on the saccade target object rather than on a remapping of the entire scene, with some contribution from memory for the relative positions of objects as well. Three experiments investigated the saccade target object theory, along with an alternative hypothesis that proposes that multiple objects are updated across saccades, but with variable resolution, with the saccade target object (by virtue of being the focus of attention before the saccade and residing near the fovea after the saccade) having priority in the perception of displacement. Although support was found for the saccade target object theory in Experiment 1, the results of Experiments 2 and 3 found that multiple objects are updated across saccades and that their positions are evaluated to determine perceived stability. There is an advantage for detecting displacements of the saccade target, most likely because of visual acuity or attentional focus being better near the fovea, but it is not the saccade target alone that determines the perception of stability and of displacements across saccades. Rather, multiple sources of information appear to contribute.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-575
Number of pages28
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Saccadic eye movements
  • spatial memory
  • visual stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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