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Exp Brain Res. 2012 Nov;223(2):291-300. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3260-z. Epub 2012 Sep 23.

Attentional shifts by gaze direction in voluntary orienting: evidence from a microsaccade study.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Kobe University, 1-1 Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe 657-8501, Japan.


Shifts in spatial attention can be induced by the gaze direction of another. However, it is unclear whether gaze direction influences the allocation of attention by reflexive or voluntary orienting. The present study was designed to examine which type of attentional orienting is elicited by gaze direction. We conducted two experiments to answer this question. In Experiment 1, we used a modified Posner paradigm with gaze cues and measured microsaccades to index the allocation of attention. We found that microsaccade direction followed cue direction between 200 and 400 ms after gaze cues were presented. This is consistent with the latencies observed in other microsaccade studies in which voluntary orienting is manipulated, suggesting that gaze direction elicits voluntary orienting. However, Experiment 1 did not separate voluntary and reflexive orienting directionally, so in Experiment 2, we used an anticue task in which cue direction (direction to allocate attention) was the opposite of gaze direction (direction of gaze in depicted face). The results in Experiment 2 were consistent with those from Experiment 1. Microsaccade direction followed the cue direction, not gaze direction. Taken together, these results indicate that the shift in spatial attention elicited by gaze direction is voluntary orienting.

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