We interact with complex scenes using eye movements to select targets of interest. Studies have shown that the future target of a saccadic eye movement is processed differently by the visual system. A number of effects have been reported, including a benefit for perceptual performance at the target ("enhancement"), reduced influences of backward masking ("un-masking"), reduced crowding ("un-crowding") and spatial compression towards the saccade target. We investigated the time course of these effects by measuring orientation discrimination for targets that were spatially crowded or temporally masked. In four experiments, we varied the target-flanker distance, the presence of forward/backward masks, the orientation of the flankers and whether participants made a saccade. Masking and randomizing flanker orientation reduced performance in both fixation and saccade trials. We found a small improvement in performance on saccade trials, compared to fixation trials, with a time course that was consistent with a general enhancement at the saccade target. In addition, a decrement in performance (reporting the average flanker orientation, rather than the target) was found in the time bins nearest saccade onset when random oriented flankers were used, consistent with spatial pooling around the saccade target. We did not find strong evidence for un-crowding. Overall, our pattern of results was consistent with both an early, general enhancement at the saccade target and a later, peri-saccadic compression/pooling towards the saccade target.
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