, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 826-831

The owl and the pussycat: Gaze cues and visuospatial orienting


Recent research has shown that nonpredictive gaze cues trigger reflexive shifts in attention toward the looked-at location. But just how generalizable is this spatial cuing effect? In particular, are people especially tuned to gaze cues provided by conspecifics, or can comparable shifts in visual attention be triggered by other cue providers and directional cues? To investigate these issues, we used a standard cuing paradigm to compare the attentional orienting produced by different cue providers (i.e., animate vs. inanimate) and directional cues (i.e., eyes vs. arrows). The results of three experiments revealed that attentional orienting was insensitive to both the identity of the cue provider and the nature of the triggering cue. However, compared with arrows, gaze cues prompted a general enhancement in the efficiency of processing operations. We consider the implications of these findings for accounts of reflexive visual orienting.