Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 490–495 | Cite as

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

  • Chris Kelland FriesenEmail author
  • Alan KingstoneEmail author
Brief Reports


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.


Stimulus Onset Asynchrony Response Condition Target Letter Superior Temporal Sulcus Uncued Location 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Baron-Cohen, S. (1995).Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bertelson, P. (1967). The time course of preparation.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,19, 272–279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Campbell, R., Heywood, C. A., Cowey, A., Regard, M., &Landis, T. (1990). Sensitivity to eye gaze in prosopagnosic patients and monkeys with superior temporal sulcus ablation.Neuropsychologia,28, 1123–1142.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cheal, M. L., &Lyon, D. R. (1991). Central and peripheral precuing of forced-choice discrimination.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,43A, 859–880.Google Scholar
  5. Corkum, V., &Moore, C. (1995). Development of joint visual attention in infants. In C. Moore & P. Dunham (Eds.),Joint attention: Its origins and role in development (pp. 61–83). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Driver, J.,Davis, G.,Kidd, P.,Maxwell, E.,Ricciardelli, P., &Baron-Cohen, S. (in press). Gaze perception triggers visuospatial orienting by adults in a reflexive manner.Visual Cognition.Google Scholar
  7. Hains, S. M. J., &Muir, D. W. (1996). Infant sensitivity to adult eye direction.Child Development,67, 1940–1951.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Harries, M. H., &Perrett, D. I. (1991). Visual processing of faces in temporal cortex: Physiological evidence for a modular organization and possible anatomical correlates.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,3, 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hood, B. M., Willen, J. D., &Driver, J. (1998). Adults’ eyes trigger shifts of visual attention in human infants.Psychological Science,9, 131–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jonides, J. (1981). Voluntary versus automatic control over the mind’s eye’s movement. In J. B. Long & A. D. Baddeley (Eds.),Attention and performance IX (pp. 187–203). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Klein, R. M., Kingstone, A., &Pontefract, A. (1992). Orienting of visual attention. In K. Rayner (Ed.),Eye movements and visual cognition: Scene perception and reading (pp. 46–63). Amsterdam: Elsevier, North-Holland.Google Scholar
  12. Kling, A. S., &Brothers, L. A. (1992). The amygdala and social behavior. In J. P. Aggleton (Ed.),The amygdala: Neurobiological aspects of emotion, memory, and mental dysfunction (pp. 353–377). New York: Wiley-Liss.Google Scholar
  13. Langton, S. R. H., &Bruce, V. (1997, July).Reflexive visual orienting in response to the social attention of others. Paper presented at a meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Cardiff, Wales.Google Scholar
  14. Langton, S. R. H., &Bruce, V. (in press). Reflexive social orienting.Visual Cognition.Google Scholar
  15. Maurer, D. (1985). Infants’ perception of facedness. In T. M. Field & N. A. Fox (Eds.),Social perception in infants (pp. 73–100). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  16. Mowrer, O. H. (1940). Preparatory set (expectancy)-Some methods of measurements.Psychological Review Monographs,52 (Whole No. 233).Google Scholar
  17. Müller, H. J., &Rabbitt, P. M. A. (1989). Spatial cueing and the relation between the accuracy of “where” and “what” decisions in visual search.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,41A, 747–773.Google Scholar
  18. Perrett D. I., Smith, P. A. J., Potter, D. D., Mistlin, A. J., Head, A. S., Milner, A. D., &Jeeves, M. A. (1985). Visual cells in the temporal cortex sensitive to face view and gaze direction.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Series B,223, 293–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Posner, M. I. (1978).Chronometric explorations of mind. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Posner, M. I. (1980). Orienting of attention.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,32, 3–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Posner, M. I., &Petersen, S. E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain.Annual Review of Neuroscience,13, 25–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Posner, M. I., &Snyder, C. R. R. (1975). Facilitation and inhibition in the processing of signals. In P. M. A. Rabbitt & S. Dornic (Eds.),Attention and performance V (pp. 669–682). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  23. Rafal, R. D., Calabresi, P., Brennan, C., &Sciolto, T. (1989). Saccade preparation inhibits reorienting to recently attended locations.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,15, 673–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rafal, R. D., Posner, M. I., Friedman, J. H., Inhoff, A.W., &Bernstein, E. (1988). Orienting of visual attention in progressive supranuclear palsy.Brain,111, 267–280.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Von Grünau, M., Ânston, C. (1995). The detection of gaze direction: A stare-in-the-crowd effect.Perception,24, 1297–1313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Young, A. W., Aggleton, J. P., Hellawell, D. J., Johnson, M., Broks, P., &Hanley, J. R. (1995). Face processing impairments after amygdalotomy.Brain,118, 15–24.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations