Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Ty W. Boyer


Visual attention is a process that involves concentrating on select features, such as sensory cues, within the complex environment. Sensory cues within the visual field capture and redirect our attention. Previous research on eye gaze revealed that direct gaze captures attention. In the present study, pointing gestures and motion cues were tested together in a visual search task to examine their effects on attention. Participants were instructed to identify a target letter presented on one of four hands. Initially, two hands displayed a pointing gesture while the other two displayed an open gesture. Next, a target letter appeared, one open hand switched to pointing and one pointing hand switched to open, and the other two hands maintained their original gesture. The findings revealed that participants’ response times varied across the stimuli, with an interaction between the gesture and motion of the target hand. When the gesture was static before and after the appearance of the target letter, responses were faster to the pointing than open hand gesture. When the gesture of the target hand switched with the presentation of the target letter, however, responses were faster when the hand was initially pointing and switched to open than the reverse. There are two possible explanations for this finding: the pointing hand attracted attention to that location before the switch or the sudden onset of the open gesture attracted attention quicker. These findings reveal that gesture’s effect on attentional processes is affected by motion.