The effect of gaze position on reaching movements in an obstacle avoidance task

Alasdair Iain Ross, Thomas Schenk, Constanze Hesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Numerous studies have addressed the issue of where people look when they perform hand movements. Yet, very little is known about how visuomotor performance is affected by fixation location. Previous studies investigating the accuracy of actions performed in visual periphery have revealed inconsistent results. While movements performed under full visual-feedback (closed-loop) seem to remain surprisingly accurate, open-loop as well as memory-guided movements usually show a distinct bias (i.e. overestimation of target eccentricity) when executed in periphery. In this study, we aimed to investigate whether gaze position affects movements that are performed under full-vision but cannot be corrected based on a direct comparison between the hand and target position. To do so, we employed a classical visuomotor reaching task in which participants were required to move their hand through a gap between two obstacles into a target area. Participants performed the task in four gaze conditions: free-viewing (no restrictions on gaze), central fixation, or fixation on one of the two obstacles. Our findings show that obstacle avoidance behaviour is moderated by fixation position. Specifically, participants tended to select movement paths that veered away from the obstacle fixated indicating that perceptual errors persist in closed-loop vision conditions if they cannot be corrected effectively based on visual feedback. Moreover, measuring the eye-movement in a free-viewing task (Experiment 2), we confirmed that naturally participants’ prefer to move their eyes and hand to the same spatial location.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0144193
Number of pages16
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number12
Early online date4 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.

Data Availability: All hand movement data files are available on figshare (DOI: Due to ethical considerations eye-movement videos (from Experiment 2) are only available upon request by contacting Constanze Hesse, University of Aberdeen, School of Psychology, AB243FX, UK, email:


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of gaze position on reaching movements in an obstacle avoidance task'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this