, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 490-495

The eyes have it! Reflexive orienting is triggered by nonpredictive gaze


Normal subjects were presented with a simple line drawing of a face looking left, right, or straight ahead. A target letter F or T then appeared to the left or the right of the face. All subjects participated in target detection, localization, and identification response conditions. Although subjects were told that the line drawing’s gaze direction (the cue) did not predict where the target would occur, response time in all three conditions was reliably faster when gaze was toward versus away from the target. This study provides evidence for covert, reflexive orienting to peripheral locations in response to uninformative gaze shifts presented at fixation. The implications for theories of social attention and visual orienting are discussed, and the brain mechanisms that may underlie this phenomenon are considered.

This research was supported by a graduate student award to C.K.F. from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and by grants to A.K. from NSERC (170077) and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (00134). The findings reported in this article were presented at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, March 1997, Boston.