Patience is a virtue: Individual differences in cue-evoked pupil responses under temporal certainty

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC


Attention control is often examined behaviorally by measuring task performance and self-reported mind wandering. However, recent studies have also used pupillometry to measure task engagement versus task disengagement/mind wandering. In the current study, we investigated participants’ ability to engage versus relax attention control in anticipation of hard (antisaccade) versus easy (prosaccade) trials within a saccade task, creating a “Cue-Evoked” Pupillary Response (CEPR). Participants completed the Automated OSPAN as a measure of working memory capacity (WMC) followed by a saccade task with a constant 5000 ms delay between cue and stimulus. Occasional thought-probes were included to gauge on- versus off-task attentional state. Consistent with recent findings (Hutchison et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2015), we found better performance and more Task-Unrelated Thoughts (TUTs) on prosaccade trials, larger pupil diameters when preparing for antisaccade trials, and larger pupil diameters when on-task. Further, lower WMC individuals showed pupil dilation throughout the fixation delay for both types of trials, whereas higher WMC individuals only showed dilation immediately before stimulus onset when expecting an antisaccade trial. Saccade accuracy was predicted by WMC, smaller early CEPR, larger late CEPR, and less CEPR variability, but not self-reported TUTs. These findings demonstrate that, under temporal certainty, higher WMC individuals may be more efficient in their exertion of attention control. Further, they indicate that physiological measures can not only validate self-report measures, but also help identify situations in which self-report may be.


This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:


cognitive control, pupillometry, mind wandering, attention


Hood, A.V.B., Hart, K.M., Marchak, F.M. et al. Patience is a virtue: Individual differences in cue-evoked pupil responses under temporal certainty. Atten Percept Psychophys 84, 1286–1303 (2022).
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