Temporal uncertainty separates flashes from their background during saccades.
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It is known that spatial localization of flashed objects fails around the time of rapid eye movements (saccades). This mislocalization is often interpreted in terms of a combination of shifts and deformations of the brain’s representation of space to account for the eye movement. Such temporary remapping of positions in space should affect all elements in a scene, leaving ordinal relationships between positions intact. We performed an experiment in which we presented flashes on a background with red and green regions to human subjects. We found that flashes that were presented on the green part of the background around the time of a saccade were readily reported to have been presented on the red part of the background and vice versa. This is inconsistent with the notion of a temporary shift and deformation of perceived space. To explain our results, we present a model that illustrates how temporal uncertainty could give rise to the observed spatial mislocalization. The model combines uncertainty about the time of the flash with a bias to localize targets where one is looking. It reproduced the pattern of mislocalization very accurately, showing that perisaccadic mislocalization can best be explained in terms of temporal uncertainty about the moment of the flash.