Eye-blinks in choice response tasks uncover hidden aspects of information processing

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Edmund Wascher
Holger Heppner
Tina Möckel
Sven Oliver Kobald
Stephan Getzmann


Spontaneous eye-blinks occur much more often than it would be necessary to maintain the tear film on the eyes. Various factors like cognitive demand, task engagement, or fatigue are influencing spontaneous blink rate. During cognitive information processing there is evidence that blinks occur preferably at moments that can be assigned to input stream segmentation. We investigated blinking behavior in three different visual choice response experiments (Experiment 1: spatial Stimulus-Response correspondence, Experiment 2: Change Detection, Experiment 3: Continuous performance Test - AX version). Blinks during the experimental tasks were suppressed when new information was expected, as well as during cognitive processing until the response was executed. Blinks in go trials occurred within a short and relatively constant interval after manual responses. However, blinks were not a side effect of manual behavior, as they occurred in a similar manner in no-go trials in which no manual response was executed. In these trials, blinks were delayed when a prepared response had to be inhibited, compared to trials in which no response was intended. Additionally, time on task effects for no-go blinks mirrored those obtained in go trials. Thus, blinks seem to provide a reliable measure for cognitive processing beyond (or rather additional to) manual responses.

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Wascher, E., Heppner, H., Möckel, T., Kobald, S. O., & Getzmann, S. (2015). Eye-blinks in choice response tasks uncover hidden aspects of information processing. EXCLI Journal, 14, 1207-1218. https://doi.org/10.17179/excli2015-696
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