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Percept Psychophys. 1999 Aug;61(6):1046-54.

Inhibition of return is composed of attentional and oculomotor processes.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Response time can be delayed if a target stimulus appears at a location or object that was previously cued. This inhibition of return (IOR) phenomenon has been attributed to a delay in activating attentional or motor processes to a previously cued stimulus. Two experiments required subjects to localize or identify a target stimulus. In Experiment 1, the subjects' eyes were not monitored. In Experiment 2, the subjects' eyes were monitored, and the subjects were instructed to either execute or withhold an eye movement to a target stimulus. The results indicated that IOR was always present for location and identification responses, supporting an attentional account of IOR. However, IOR was larger when eye movements were executed, indicating that a motor component can contribute to IOR. Finally, when eye movements were withheld, IOR was larger when a target was presented alone than when it was presented with a distractor, suggesting that IOR is larger for exogenous than for endogenous covert orienting. Together, the data indicate that IOR is composed of both an oculomotor component and an attentional component.

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