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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Mar;1156:118-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04468.x.

Human social attention: A new look at past, present, and future investigations.

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1
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA. elinab@hss.caltech.edu

Abstract

The present review examines the neural-behavioral correlates of human social attention, with special regard to the neural mechanisms involved in processing gaze information and the functional impact of gaze direction on the spatial orienting of attention. Our review suggests that there is strong evidence that specific brain systems are preferentially biased toward processing gaze information, yet this specificity is not mirrored by the behavioral data as measured in highly controlled model attention tasks such as the Posner cueing paradigm. In less controlled tasks, however, such as when observers are left free to select what they want to attend, they focus on people and their eyes, consistent with one's intuition and with the neural evidence that eyes are special. We discuss a range of implications of these data, including that much is to be gained by examining brain and behavioral processes to social stimuli as they occur in complex real-world settings.

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