"Where you look, I will follow": Probing the time-course of facilitation and inhibition in gaze cueing of attention

  • Emma Yoxon Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto
  • Merryn D Constable Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education & Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
  • Timothy N Welsh Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto


Although we can attend to objects and locations that we are not looking at, we generally look at the objects and locations that are the focus of our attention. Because of this tight coupling between attention and eye gaze location, determining where another person is looking is an important cue we use to understand the focus of another person's attention. As such, gaze cueing has been investigated because it is a powerful biological cue involved in social interaction and development. The results of this work indicate that orienting of attention to gaze cues may have a unique neural mechanism because it has been demonstrated to be associated with behavioural effects of both bottom-up and top-down control of attention. The majority of this work, however, has focused on reaction time (RT) in discrete button pressing tasks. The current study employed an aiming movement paradigm because the analysis of both temporal (RT) and spatial (movement angle) measures of aiming movements can provide a greater resolution of the time-course of gaze cueing effects. Analysis of RTs revealed facilitation effects for cued targets at SOAs of 100 ms, 250 ms and 400 ms, suggesting an early but prolonged orientation to gaze cued targets. Interestingly, there was also a facilitation effect observed in the movement angle measure at the 250 ms SOA, corresponding to the timing of the maximal facilitation effect observed in the RT measure. These results suggest that there are overlapping attentional and motoric contributions to attention orienting to gaze cues.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.