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Effects of reward on the accuracy and dynamics of smooth pursuit eye movements

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Brielmann, A., & Spering, M. (2015). Effects of reward on the accuracy and dynamics of smooth pursuit eye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 41(4), 917-928. doi:10.1037/a0039205.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-6AB1-A
Reward modulates behavioral choices and biases goal-oriented behavior, such as eye or hand movements, toward locations or stimuli associated with higher rewards. We investigated reward effects on the accuracy and timing of smooth pursuit eye movements in 4 experiments. Eye movements were recorded in participants tracking a moving visual target on a computer monitor. Before target motion onset, a monetary reward cue indicated whether participants could earn money by tracking accurately, or whether the trial was unrewarded (Experiments 1 and 2, n = 11 each). Reward significantly improved eye-movement accuracy across different levels of task difficulty. Improvements were seen even in the earliest phase of the eye movement, within 70 ms of tracking onset, indicating that reward impacts visual-motor processing at an early level. We obtained similar findings when reward was not precued but explicitly associated with the pursuit target (Experiment 3, n = 16); critically, these results were not driven by stimulus prevalence or other factors such as preparation or motivation. Numerical cues (Experiment 4, n = 9) were not effective.