Shifts of attention bias awareness of voluntary and reflexive eye movements

Maria M. Robinson, David E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current theories regarding factors that influence people’s awareness of their actions have underscored the role of peripheral signals (e.g., proprioceptive feedback) and central commands (e.g., the intention to make a response). The role of covert attention has been largely underexplored, even though attention and awareness have been tightly linked. The aim of the current study was to directly examine the impact of shifts of visual attention on people’s awareness of their eye movements as they performed the antisaccade task. People tend to be unaware of a high percentage of erroneous eye movements on this task, thus lending it to the study of variables that might modulate people’s awareness of their actions. In addition, this task provides the opportunity to compare two classes of actions, voluntary (antisaccade) and involuntary (erroneous prosaccade) eye movements, and thus to assess whether shifts of covert attention can or cannot override sources of information that may be present when people make voluntary but not reflexive responses. We found that shifts of visual attention did indeed influence participants’ awareness of their own eye movements, leading them to misperceive reflexive and voluntary movements alike, suggesting that covert attention may override both peripheral and central signals to bias awareness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1689-1699
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Antisaccade task
  • Awareness
  • Covert attention
  • Error detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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