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2. Seeing: Hacks 13–33 > 19. Release Eye Fixations for Faster Reactions

Release Eye Fixations for Faster Reactions

It takes longer to shift your attention to a new object if the old object is still there.

Shifting attention often means shifting your eyes. But we’re never fully in control of what our eyes want to look at. If they’re latched on to something, they’re rather stubborn about moving elsewhere. It’s faster for you to look at something new if you don’t have to tear your eyes away—if what you were originally looking at disappears and then there’s a short gap, it’s as if your eyes become unlocked, and your reaction time improves. This is called the gap effect.

In Action

The gap effect can be spotted if you’re asked to stare at some shape on a screen, then switch your gaze to a new shape that will appear somewhere else on the screen. Usually, switching to the new shape takes about a fifth of a second. But if the old shape vanishes shortly before the new shape flashes up, moving your gaze takes less time, about 20% less.


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