Gaze Perception Requires Focused Attention: Evidence From an Interference Task

A. Mike Burton*, Markus Bindemann, Stephen R.H. Langton, Stefan R. Schweinberger, Rob Jenkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The direction of another person's gaze is difficult to ignore when presented at the center of attention. In 6 experiments, perception of unattended gaze was investigated. Participants made directional (left-right) judgments to gazing-face or pointing-hand targets, which were accompanied by a distractor face or hand. Processing of the distractor was assessed via congruency effects on target response times. Congruency effects were found from the direction of distractor hands but not from the direction of distractor gazes (Experiment 1). This pattern persisted even when distractor sizes were increased to compensate for their peripheral presentation (Experiments 2 and 5). In contrast, congruency effects were exerted by profile heads (Experiments 3 and 4). In Experiment 6, isolated eye region distractors produced no congruency effects, even when they were presented near the target. These results suggest that, unlike other facial information, gaze direction cannot be perceived outside the focus of attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-118
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

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