Social Attention Is Not Restricted to the Eyes: Pointing Also Automatically Orients Direction of Attention

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Considerable evidence reveals that observers automatically follow the direction of another’s gaze, which some attribute to a dedicated eye processor. Alternatively, this response could reflect a more general process for socially relevant directional information. We conducted three experiments testing whether finger pointing can automatically orient spatial attention in a manner similar to eye gaze. A 2AFC response time paradigm tested localization of a peripheral target following the appearance of a central pointing hand or arrow with an SOA of 100 or 600 ms. The stimulus cue was counterpredictive of the target location on 75% of the trials. The results from three experiments measuring response times, eye movements, or heart rate variability converged to show that participants oriented automatically to the direction of the pointing finger and the arrow at 100 ms SOA, but more subtle differences in responding suggested that pointing, like eye gaze, is specialized for orienting attention.


Psychonomic Society Annual Meeting


Minneapolis, MN