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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2012 Dec;38(6):1438-47. doi: 10.1037/a0027794. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Saccade preparation is required for exogenous attention but not endogenous attention or IOR.

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Department of Psychology, Durham University, Stockton on Tees, England.


Covert attention is tightly coupled with the control of eye movements, but there is controversy about how tight this coupling is. The premotor theory of attention proposes that activation of the eye movement system is necessary to produce shifts of attention. In this study, we experimentally prevented healthy participants from planning or executing eye movements and observed the effect on exogenous attention, inhibition of return (IOR), and endogenous attention. The participants experienced a deficit of exogenous attentional facilitation that was specific to locations that were inaccessible by saccade. In contrast, their ability to endogenously orient attention was preserved, as was IOR. These results show that (a) exogenous attention depends on motor preparation, (b) IOR is independent of motor preparation and exogenous attention, and (c) endogenous attention is independent of motor preparation. Although these data are consistent with a weak version of the premotor theory, we believe they can be better explained by a biased competition account of visual attention.

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