Motor behavior often occurs in environments with multiple goal options that can vary during the ongoing action. We explored this situation by requiring subjects to select between different target options during an ongoing reach. During split trials the original target was replaced with a left and a right flanking target, and participants had to select between them. This contrasted with the standard jump trials, where the original target would be replaced with a single flanking target, left or right. When participants were instructed to follow their natural tendency, they all tended to select the split target nearest the original. The near-target preference was more prominent with increased spatial disparity between the options and when participants could preview the potential options. Moreover, explicit instruction to obtain the “far” target during split trials resulted many errors compared with a “near” instruction, ~50% vs. ~15%. Online reaction times to target change were delayed in split trials compared with jump trials, ~200 ms vs. ~150 ms, but also highly automatic. Trials in which the instructed far target was correctly obtained were delayed by a further ~50 ms, unlike those in which the near target was incorrectly obtained. We also observed nonspecific responses from arm muscles at the jump trial latency during split trials. Taken together, our results indicate that online selection of reach targets is automatically linked to the spatial distribution of the options, though at greater delays than redirecting to a single target. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This work demonstrates that target selection during an ongoing reach is automatically linked to the option nearest a voided target. Online reaction times for two options are longer than redirection to a single option. Attempts to override the near-target tendency result in a high number of errors at the normal delay and further delays when the attempt is successful.
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