We studied the deployment of visual attention during the preparation of saccade sequences. Participants performed a sequence of two or three saccades to circularly arranged targets. A secondary task consisted in the discrimination of tachistoscopically presented target letters (‘E’ and mirror-‘E’).
The data show superior discrimination performance at all saccade goals of the impending sequence. Discrimination is close to chance level at the movement-irrelevant positions, even at the intermediate location between two goals of the eye movement sequence. It can be concluded that, during the preparation of a sequence of saccades, attention is allocated in parallel to all movement goals, and is spatially divided among non-contiguous target locations.
In a follow-up EEG experiment a dot probe paradigm was used to provide physiological evidence for the parallel selection of multiple movement goals. Participants executed a movement sequence to two out of three possible goal positions. During movement preparation a dot was flashed either at one of the movement goals, or at the third, movement-irrelevant position. The data reveal that the N1-component induced by the dot is enhanced if the dot is flashed at any of the movement goals, indicating that both are attended in parallel well before sequence onset.