Oculomotor inhibition of return

Raymond M. Klein and Matthew D. Hilchey

in The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539789
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Oculomotor inhibition of return

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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A mechanism referred to as inhibition of return (IOR) was proposed by Michael Posner and colleagues (Posner and Cohen, 1984; Posner et al., 1985) to account for delayed responses to stimuli presented in previously attended regions or on previously attended objects. This increase in response times is intricately linked to the orienting machinery of the oculomotor system and, as such, it was proposed that IOR plays a crucial role in facilitating search behaviour. Properties of IOR that have been identified using a simple cuing paradigm (e.g. IOR can be coded in environmental and object coordinates) are consistent with this functional interpretation. The interaction of IOR with oculomotor phenomena is reviewed with an emphasis on how orienting behaviour is modulated by IOR. Studies using a wide variety of methods demonstrate that fixations that return gaze to a recently fixated region (even when these refixations occur more frequently than chance) suffer a temporal cost, no doubt because whatever processes encourages the return of attention must overcome the inhibitory traces left behind by prior orienting.

Keywords: inhibition of return; delayed responses; oculomotor system; orienting machinery; prior orienting

Article.  13296 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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