Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibition of Return: A Phenomenon in Search of a Definition and a Theoretical Framework

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibition of Return: A Phenomenon in Search of a Definition and a Theoretical Framework

Article excerpt

Published online: 2 April 2015

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2015

Abstract In a study of scientific nomenclature, we explore the diversity of perspectives researchers endorse for the phenomenon of inhibition of return (IOR). IOR is often described as an effect whereby people are slower to respond to a target presented at a recently stimulated or inspected location as compared to a target presented at a new location. Since its discovery, scores of papers have been published on IOR, and researchers have proposed, accepted and rejected a variety of potential causes, mechanisms, effects and components for the phenomenon. Experts in IOR were surveyed about their opinions regarding various aspects of IOR and the literature exploring it. We found variety both between and within experts surveyed, suggesting that most researchers hold implicit, and often quite unique assumptions about IOR. These widely varied assumptions may be hindering the creation or acceptance of a central theoretical framework regarding IOR; and this variety may portend that what has been given the label "IOR" may be more than one phenomenon requiring more than one theoretical explanation. We wonder whether scientific progress in domains other than IOR might be affected by too broad (or perhaps too narrow) a range of phenomena to which our nomenclature is applied.

Keywords Inhibition of return . Attention . Eye movements and visual attention

Introduction

When a newly discovered phenomenon is named there is, initially at least, agreement about what phenomena the name refers to. Learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975; Maier and Seligman, 1976), for example, was proposed as a theoretical explanation for a psychological state induced through specific methods. Despite the possibility of some over- or under-generalization, there is usually good agreement about what our names for things refer to. Unfortunately, sometimes a name is at risk of losing its meaning because it is too often inconsistently applied or creatively (over-) extended. From the realm of cognitive psychology, this paper is about such a term: Inhibition of return (IOR).

We will begin with a description of the original and some subsequent use(s) of the term and then describe the results from a survey of experts' understandings of the term. In Psychology surveys of experts have been used to help select an appropriate assessment tool (e.g., in forensic situations: Lally, 2003); to understand the meaning of an everyday term (e.g., wisdom: Jeste et al., 2010); and to determine the content validity of items in a behavioral instrument (e.g., sluggish cognitive tempo, Penny et al., 2009). In an effort to determine what leaders in the field of IOR research explicitly and implicitly think about the phenomenon, we conducted a survey of experts that targeted some of the ambiguities surrounding IOR. We believe our approach might serve as a model for investigators in other areas of psychological science (or other sciences) who are, like us, concerned about nomenclature.

Inhibition of return

Inhibition of return is often described as an effect wherein responses are slower to a target presented at a recently stimulated or inspected location compared to when the target is presented at a new location (Posner et al., 1985). IOR has been proposed to function as a novelty seeking mechanism (Posner and Cohen, 1984) and as a foraging facilitator (Itti & Koch, 2001; Klein and MacInnes, 1999); it has been likened to the gambler's fallacy (Lyons et al., 2013); it has been observed in newborn human infants (Valenza et al., 1992) and in the archer fish (Gabay et al., 2013); its neural underpinnings have been explored using a wide variety of neuroimagingmodalities, including ERPs (e.g., Prime andWard, 2006), fMRI (e.g., Mayer et al., 2004), single unit recording (Dorris et al., 2002;Mirpour et al., 2009) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (e.g., van Koningsbruggen et al., 2010); and changes in its manifestation have been studied as a function of the administration of a wide variety of pharmaceuticals and the presence of a wide variety of neuropathologies. …

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