The saccadic " gap effect" refers to a phenomenon whereby saccadic reaction times (SRTs) are shortened by the removal of a visual fixation stimulus prior to target presentation. In the current study, we investigated whether the gap effect was influenced by retinal input of a fixation stimulus, as well as phenomenal permanence and/or expectation of the re-emergence of a fixation stimulus. In Experiment 1, we used an occluded fixation stimulus that was gradually hidden by a moving plate prior to the target presentation, which produced the impression that the fixation stimulus still remained and would reappear from behind the plate. We found that the gap effect was significantly weakened with the occluded fixation stimulus. However, the SRT with the occluded fixation stimulus was still shorter in comparison to when the fixation stimulus physically remained on the screen. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether this effect was due to phenomenal maintenance or expectation of the reappearance of the fixation stimulus; this was achieved by using occluding plates that were an identical color to the background screen, giving the impression of reappearance of the fixation stimulus but not of its maintenance. The result showed that the gap effect was still weakened by the same degree even without phenomenal maintenance of the fixation stimulus. These results suggest that the saccadic gap effect is modulated by both retinal input and subjective expectation of re-emergence of the fixation stimulus. In addition to oculomotor mechanisms, other components, such as attentional mechanisms, likely contribute to facilitation of the subsequent action.
ASJC Scopus subject areas