Talking heads or talking eyes? Effects of head orientation and sudden onset gaze cues on attention capture

Robrecht P. van der Wel, Timothy Welsh, Anne Böckler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The direction of gaze towards or away from an observer has immediate effects on attentional processing in the observer. Previous research indicates that faces with direct gaze are processed more efficiently than faces with averted gaze. We recently reported additional processing advantages for faces that suddenly adopt direct gaze (abruptly shift from averted to direct gaze) relative to static direct gaze (always in direct gaze), sudden averted gaze (abruptly shift from direct to averted gaze), and static averted gaze (always in averted gaze). Because changes in gaze orientation in previous study co-occurred with changes in head orientation, it was not clear if the effect is contingent on face or eye processing, or whether it requires both the eyes and the face to provide consistent information. The present study delineates the impact of head orientation, sudden onset motion cues, and gaze cues. Participants completed a target-detection task in which head position remained in a static averted or direct orientation while sudden onset motion and eye gaze cues were manipulated within each trial. The results indicate a sudden direct gaze advantage that resulted from the additive role of motion and gaze cues. Interestingly, the orientation of the face towards or away from the observer did not influence the sudden direct gaze effect, suggesting that eye gaze cues, not face orientation cues, are critical for the sudden direct gaze effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Attention
  • Eye Movements: *Other
  • Gaze


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