We conducted a series of experiments to determine whether negative priming is used in the process of target selection for a saccadic eye movement. The key questions addressed the circumstances in which the negative priming of an object takes place, and the distinction between spatial and object-based effects. Experiment 1 revealed that after fixating a target (cricket ball) amongst an array of semantically-related distracters, saccadic eye movements in a subsequent display were faster to the target than to distracters or new objects, irrespective of location. The main finding was that of the facilitation of a recent target, and not the inhibition of a recent distracter or location. Experiment 2 replicated this finding by using silhouettes of objects for selection that based on feature shape. Error rates were associated with distracters with high target-shape similarity therefore Experiment 3 presented silhouettes of animals using a distracters with low target-shape similarity. The pattern of results was similar to that of Experiment 2, with clear evidence of target facilitation rather than inhibition of distracters. Experiment 4 and 5 introduced a distractor together with the target into the probe display, to generate competitive selection in the probe condition. In these circumstances clear evidence of spatial inhibition at the location of the previous distractors emerged. We discuss the implications for our understanding of selective attention and consider why it is essential to supplement response time data with the analysis of eye movement behaviour in spatial negative priming paradigms.
Donovan, T., Crawford, T., & Litchfield, D. (2012). Negative priming for target selection with saccadic eye movements. Experimental Brain Research, 222(4), 483-494. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-012-3234-1