Multiple levels of mental attentional demand modulate peak saccade velocity and blink rate
Every day we mentally process new information that needs to be attended, encoded and retrieved. Processing demands depend on the amount of information and the mental attentional capacity of the individual. Research shows that eye movement indices such as peak saccade velocity and blink rate are related to processes of attentional control, however it is still unclear how eye movements are affected by graded changes in task demand. We examine for the first time relations of eye movements to mental attentional tasks with six levels of task demand and two interference conditions. We report data on 57 adults who completed two versions of the color matching task and provided subjective self rating for each mental attentional demand level. Results show that peak saccade velocity and blink rate decrease as a function of mental attentional demand and correlate negatively with self rating of mental effort. Theoretically, new findings related to mental attentional demand and eye movements inform models of visual processing and cognition. Practically, results point to directions for further research to better understand complex relations among eye movements and mental attentional demand in pediatric populations and individuals with cognitive deficits.