The control of attention to faces

Markus Bindemann*, A. Mike Burton, Stephen R.H. Langton, Stefan R. Schweinberger, Martin J. Doherty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Humans attend to faces. This study examines the extent to which attention biases to faces are under top-down control. In a visual cueing paradigm, observers responded faster to a target probe appearing in the location of a face cue than of a competing object cue (Experiments 1a and 2a). This effect could be reversed when faces were negatively predictive of the likely target location, making it beneficial to attend to the object cues (Experiments 1b and 2b). It was easier still to strategically shift attention to predictive face cues (Experiment 2c), indicating that the endogenous allocation of attention was augmented here by an additional effect. However, faces merely delayed the voluntary deployment of attention to object cues, but they could not prevent it, even at short cue-target intervals. This finding suggests that attention biases for faces can be rapidly countered by an observer's endogenous control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


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