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Learning to Expect the Future: Anticipatory saccades relate monitoring and associative learning processes

Team:

                                

 

Florian Gouret

PhD student     


                          

     Christina Pfeuffer

Dr. Christina Pfeuffer

Principal Investigator

christina.pfeuffer@psychologie.uni-freiburg.de

 

Research Assistants:

Michael Gorki

Jonas Plate

 

 

Abstract:

When sending an e-mail, we often look towards the spot where the feedback that our message has successfully been sent will appear while pressing the send button. Though such eye movements may appear trivial at first glance, they demonstrate our impressive abilities to predict the future consequences of our actions and reveal which effects we expect our actions to have. Thus, such anticipatory eye movements reflect a proactive effect monitoring process that prepares a later comparison of the expected and actual effects of our actions (i.e., reactive effect monitoring) to determine whether our expectations were met or violated. The results of this comparison (i.e., of the reactive effect monitoring process) are thought to then affect subsequent associative learning processes which are the basis of goal-directed action. From all possible actions, humans can only select exactly the right actions to reach their goals, because, throughout their lives, they learned bi-directional associations between their actions and the effects of these actions (response-effect associations). Whenever we aim to produce an effect in the environment, the respective response-effect association is activated and the appropriate action is selected. These response-effect associations can be assessed by comparing participants´ performance when, following their responses, effects will occur at (spatially) compatible (e.g., left response ► effect on the left) versus incompatible locations (e.g., left response ► effect on the right; response-effect compatibility effect). That is, humans typically respond faster when they press a light switch on the right hand side to turn on a light on the right rather than on the left. Consequently, response-effect associations determine a person´s effect expectations which, in turn, supposedly determine proactive and reactive effect monitoring processes. These monitoring processes, in turn, will ultimately adapt said response-effect associations. Yet, this connection between learning and effect monitoring in goal-directed action control has only been theorized about, but it has not been investigated so far. The project aims to improve our understanding of the basic principles of human goal-directed action control and to help establish anticipatory eye movements as a window to cognition also in other, more applied areas.

 

related publications and preprints:

Gouret, F. & Pfeuffer, C.U. (2020/preprint). Learning to Expect the Future: Linking learning, monitoring, and action control by assessing how fast anticipatory saccades towards future action consequences emerge. Preprint available online.

 

related previous work:

Pfeuffer, C.U., Kiesel, A., & Huestegge, L. (2016). A Look into the Future: Spontaneous anticipatory saccades reflect processes of anticipatory action control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 1530-1547.

 

 

related presentations:

  • Gouret, F. & Pfeuffer, C. U. (2020, November). Modeling Anticipatory Saccades in Goal-directed Action Control. Poster session presented at the Virtual Annual Meeting of the Psychonomics Society, USA.
  • Gouret, F. & Pfeuffer, C. U. (2020, March). Learning to Expect the Future: How fast do anticipatory saccades towards future action consequences emerge?. Poster session presented at the Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen, Jena, Germany. (cancelled due to the Corona outbreak)
  • Rosca, A., Lorenz, J., & Pfeuffer, C. U. (2019, November). Expectation out of Sync: Both learning and monitoring processes determine anticipatory saccades in goal-directed action control. Poster session presented at the Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Montreal, Canada.
  • Gouret, F., & Pfeuffer, C. U. (2019, October). Learning to Expect the Future: How fast do anticipatory saccades towards future action consequences emerge?. Poster session presented at the Herbsttreffen Experimentelle Kognitionspsychologie, Hildesheim, Germany.
  • Rosca, A., & Pfeuffer, C. U. (2019, April). What time´s the future?: Temporal expectancy violations affect anticipatory saccades towards future action consequences. Poster session presented at the Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen, London, UK.
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