Semantically predictable input streams impede gaze-orientation to surprising locations

Giuseppe Notaro, Uri Hasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


When available, people use prior knowledge to predict dimensions of future events such as their location and semantic features. However, few studies have examined how multi-dimensional predictions are implemented, and mechanistic accounts are absent. Using eye tracking, we evaluated whether predictions of target-location and target-category interact during the earliest stages of orientation. We presented stochastic series so that across four conditions, participants could predict either the location of the next target-image, its semantic category, both dimensions, or neither. Participants observed images in absence of any task involving their semantic content. We modeled saccade latencies using ELATER, a rise-to-threshold model that accounts for accumulation rate (AR), variance of AR over trials, and variance of decision baseline. The main findings were: 1) AR scaled with the degree of surprise associated with a target's location; 2) predictability of semantic-category hindered saccade latencies, suggesting a bottleneck in implementing joint predictions; 3) saccades to targets that satisfied semantic expectations were associated with greater AR-variance than saccades to semantically-surprising images, consistent with a richer repertoire of early evaluative processes for semantically-expected images. Predictability of target-category also impacted gaze pre-positioning prior to target presentation. The results indicate a strong interaction between foreknowledge of object location and semantics during stimulus-guided saccades, and suggest statistical regularities in an input stream can also impact anticipatory, non-stimulus-guided processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-239
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Learning
  • Multidimensional
  • Oculomotor
  • Prediction
  • Semantic
  • Spatial


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