Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 81, Issue 7, pp 2410–2423 | Cite as

Probing the time course of facilitation and inhibition in gaze cueing of attention in an upper-limb reaching task

  • Emma YoxonEmail author
  • Merryn D. Constable
  • Timothy N. Welsh
Time for Action: Reaching for a Better Understanding of the Dynamics of Cognition


Previous work has revealed that social cues, such as gaze and pointed fingers, can lead to a shift in the focus of another person’s attention. Research investigating the mechanisms of these shifts of attention has typically employed detection or localization button-pressing tasks. Because in-depth analyses of the spatiotemporal characteristics of aiming movements can provide additional insights into the dynamics of the processing of stimuli, in the present study we used a reaching paradigm to further explore the processing of social cues. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants aimed to a left or right location after a nonpredictive eye gaze cue toward one of these target locations. Seven stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs), from 100 to 2,400 ms, were used. Both the temporal (reaction time, RT) and spatial (initial movement angle, IMA) characteristics of the movements were analyzed. RTs were shorter for cued (gazed-at) than for uncued targets across most SOAs. There were, however, no statistical differences in IMAs between movements to cued and uncued targets, suggesting that action planning was not affected by the gaze cue. In Experiment 3, the social cue was a finger pointing to one of the two target locations. Finger-pointing cues generated significant cueing effects in both RTs and IMAs. Overall, these results indicate that eye gaze and finger-pointing social cues are processed differently. Perception–action coupling (i.e., a tight link between the response and the social cue that is presented) might play roles in both the generation of action and the deviation of trajectories toward cued and uncued targets.


Attention Eye movements Visual attention Goal-directed movements 



This research was supported by grants and scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The authors thank Joëlle Hajj and Saba Taravati for their help with data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards

Open Practices Statement

None of the data or materials for the experiments reported here is openly available, and none of the experiments was preregistered.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, Centre for Motor ControlUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Cognitive ScienceCentral European UniversityBudapestHungary

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