Eye gaze cannot be ignored (but neither can arrows)

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012;65(10):1895-910. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.663765. Epub 2012 Apr 18.


Recent studies have tried to shed light on the automaticity of attentional shifts triggered by gaze and arrows with mixed results. In the present research, we aimed at testing a strong definition of resistance to suppression for orienting of attention elicited by these two cues. In five experiments, participants were informed with 100% certainty about the future location of a target they had to react to by presentation of either a direction word at the beginning of each trial or instructions at the beginning of each block. Gaze and arrows were presented before the target as uninformative distractors irrelevant for the task. The results showed similar patterns for gaze and arrows-namely, an interference effect when the distractors were incongruent with the upcoming target location. This suggests that the orienting of attention mediated by gaze and arrows can be considered as strongly automatic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Young Adult