Oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal the availability of reward


It is well known that eye movement patterns are influenced by both goal- and salience-driven factors. Recent studies, however, have demonstrated that objects that are nonsalient and task irrelevant can still capture our eyes if moving our eyes to those objects has previously produced reward. Here we demonstrate that training such an association between eye movements to an object and delivery of reward is not needed. Instead, an object that merely signals the availability of reward captures the eyes even when it is physically nonsalient and never relevant for the task. Furthermore, we show that oculomotor capture by reward is more reliably observed in saccades with short latencies. We conclude that a stimulus signaling high reward has the ability to capture the eyes independently of bottom-up physical salience or top-down task relevance and that the effect of reward affects early selection processes.

Journal of Neurophysiology, 114(4), 2316-2327