The role of eye movements in manual responses to social and nonsocial cues

  • Claudia Bonmassar
  • Francesco Pavani
  • Wieske van Zoest


Gaze and arrow cues cause covert attention shifts even when they are uninformative. Nonetheless, it is unclear to what extent oculomotor behavior influences manual responses to social and nonsocial stimuli. In two experiments, we tracked the gaze of participants during the cueing task with nonpredictive gaze and arrow cues. In Experiment 1, the discrimination task was easy and eye movements were not necessary, whereas in Experiment 2 they were instrumental in identifying the target. Validity effects on manual response time (RT) were similar for the two cues in Experiment 1 and in Experiment 2, though in the presence of eye movements observers were overall slower to respond to the arrow cue compared with the gaze cue. Cue direction had an effect on saccadic performance before the discrimination was presented and throughout the duration of the trial. Furthermore, we found evidence of a distinct impact of the type of cue on diverse oculomotor components. While saccade latencies were affected by the type of cue, both before and after the target onset, saccade landing positions were not. Critically, the manual validity effect was predicted by the landing position of the initial eye movement. This work suggests that the relationship between eye movements and attention is not straightforward. In the presence of overt selection, saccade latency related to the overall speed of manual response, while eye movements landing position was closely related to manual performance in response to different cues.


Attention Eye movements and visual attention Face perception 



This research was supported by the Autonomous Province of Trento (Italy), call Grandi Progetti 2012, project Characterizing and Improving Brain Mechanisms of Attention—ATTEND. The authors report no conflict of interests. Finally, we thank Elisa Crestale for having helped in the data collection of Experiment 2.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudia Bonmassar
    • 1
  • Francesco Pavani
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Wieske van Zoest
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC)University of TrentoRoveretoItaly
  2. 2.Integrative Multisensory Perception Action and Cognition team (ImpAct)Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences de Lyon (CRNL)LyonFrance
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Cognitive SciencesUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly
  4. 4.School of PsychologyUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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