Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Target Article

A theory of visual stability across saccadic eye movements

Bruce Bridgemana1, A. H. C. Van der Heijdena2 and Boris M. Velichkovskya3

a1 Program in Experimental Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 Electronic mail:

a2 Department of Psychology, Leiden University, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands Electronic mail:

a3 Center for Interdisciplinary Research, University of Bielefeld, D-33615 Bielefeld, Germany; Department for Psychology and Engineering of Knowledge, Moscow State University, Moscow 103009, Russia Electronic mail:


We identify two aspects of the problem of maintaining perceptual stability despite an observer's eye movements. The first, visual direction constancy, is the (egocentric) stability of apparent positions of objects in the visual world relative to the perceiver. The second, visual position constancy, is the (exocentric) stability of positions of objects relative to each other. We analyze the constancy of visual direction despite saccadic eye movements.

Three information sources have been proposed to enable the visual system to achieve stability: the structure of the visual field, proprioceptive inflow, and a copy of neural efference or outflow to the extraocular muscles. None of these sources by itself provides adequate information to achieve visual direction constancy; present evidence indicates that all three are used.

Our final question concerns how information processing operations result in a stable world. The three traditionally suggested means have been elimination, translation, or evaluation. All are rejected. From a review of the physiological and psychological evidence we conclude that no subtraction, compensation, or evaluation need take place. The problem for which these solutions were developed turns out to be a false one. We propose a “calibration” solution: correct spatiotopic positions are calculated anew for each fixation. Inflow, outflow, and retinal sources are used in this calculation: saccadic suppression of displacement bridges the errors between these sources and the actual extent of movement.