As we look around the world, selecting our targets, competing events may occur at other locations. Depending on current goals, the viewer must decide whether to look at new events or to ignore them. Two experimental paradigms formalize these response options: double-step saccades and saccadic inhibition. In the first, the viewer must reorient to a newly appearing target; in the second, they must ignore it. Until now, the relationship between reorienting and inhibition has been unexplored. In three experiments, we found saccadic inhibition ∼100 msec after a new target onset, regardless of the task instruction. Moreover, if this automatic inhibition is boosted by an irrelevant flash, reorienting is facilitated, suggesting that saccadic inhibition plays a crucial role in visual behavior, as a bottom-up brake that buys the time needed for decisional processes to act. Saccadic inhibition may be a ubiquitous pause signal that provides the flexibility for voluntary behavior to emerge.
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