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The predictability of a target’s motion influences gaze, head, and hand movements when trying to intercept it

de la Malla, Cristina; Rushton, Simon K.; Clark, Kait; Smeets, Jeroen B. J.; Brenner, Eli


Cristina de la Malla

Simon K. Rushton

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Dr Kait Clark
Senior Lecturer in Psychology (Cognitive and Neuro)

Jeroen B. J. Smeets

Eli Brenner


Does the predictability of a target’s movement and of the interception location influence how the target is intercepted? In a first experiment, we manipulated the predictability of the interception location. A target moved along a haphazardly curved path, and subjects attempted to tap on it when it entered a hitting zone. The hitting zone was either a large ring surrounding the target’s starting position (ring condition) or a small disk that became visible before the target appeared (disk condition). The interception location gradually became apparent in the ring condition, whereas it was immediately apparent in the disk condition. In the ring condition, subjects pursued the target with their gaze. Their heads and hands gradually moved in the direction of the future tap position. In the disk condition, subjects immediately directed their gaze toward the hitting zone by moving both their eyes and heads. They also moved their hands to the future tap position sooner than in the ring condition. In a second and third experiment, we made the target’s movement more predictable. Although this made the targets easier to pursue, subjects now shifted their gaze to the hitting zone soon after the target appeared in the ring condition. In the disk condition, they still usually shifted their gaze to the hitting zone at the beginning of the trial. Together, the experiments show that predictability of the interception location is more important than predictability of target movement in determining how we move to intercept targets. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We show that if people are required to intercept a target at a known location, they direct their gaze to the interception point as soon as they can rather than pursuing the target with their eyes for as long as possible. The predictability of the interception location rather than the predictability of the path to that location largely determines how the eyes, head, and hand move.


de la Malla, C., Rushton, S. K., Clark, K., Smeets, J. B. J., & Brenner, E. (2019). The predictability of a target’s motion influences gaze, head, and hand movements when trying to intercept it. Journal of Neurophysiology, 121(6), 2416-2427.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 25, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 13, 2019
Publication Date Jun 1, 2019
Deposit Date May 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jun 2, 2020
Journal Journal of Neurophysiology
Print ISSN 0022-3077
Electronic ISSN 1522-1598
Publisher American Physiological Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 121
Issue 6
Pages 2416-2427
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


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