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Influence of near threshold visual distractors on perceptual detection and reaching movements.

Providing evidence against a dissociation between conscious vision for perception and unconscious vision for action, recent studies have suggested that perceptual and motor decisions are based on a unique signal but distinct decisional thresholds. The aim of the present study was to provide a direct test of this assumption in a perceptual-motor dual task involving arm movements. In 300 trials, 10 participants performed speeded pointing movements toward a highly visible target located at 10° from the fixation point and 􏰀45° from the body midline. The target was preceded by one or two close to threshold distractor(s) (80 ms stimulus onset asynchrony) presented 􏰀30° according to the target location. After each pointing movement, participants judged whether the distractor was present or not on either side of the target. Results showed a robust reaction time facilitation effect and a deviation toward the distractor when the distractor was both present and consciously perceived (Hit). A small reaction time facilitation was also observed when two distractors were physically present but undetected (double-miss)—this facilitation being highly correlated with the physical contrast of the distractors. These results are compatible with the theory proposing that perceptual and motor decisions are based on a common signal but emerge from a contrast dependent fixed threshold for motor responses and a variable context dependent criterion for perceptual responses. This paper thus extends to arm movement control previous findings related to oculomotor control.