ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (9): 1281-1288.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01281

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The Role of Cue Type in the Subliminal Gaze-cueing Effect

CHEN Airui1; DONG Bo2; FANG Ying1; YU Changyu1; ZHANG Ming3   

  1. (1 School of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China) (2 Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China) (3 Department of Psychology, School of Education, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China)
  • Received:2013-12-02 Published:2014-09-25 Online:2014-09-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Ming, E-mail:


The fact that attention can be shifted to locations gazed by the others is called gaze following and measured by the gaze-cueing effect (GCE). Whether or not GCE could function unconsciously remains an open question. In the present study, we investigate the effect of gaze cue type (dynamic vs. static) on GCE at either the subliminal level or the supraliminal level. Continuous flash suppression and spatial cuing paradigm were used in the present study. A directed gaze display was followed by an averted gaze display in the dynamic condition. By contrast, only the averted gaze display appeared in the static condition. Thus, the dynamic gaze cue involved eyes’ movement, while the static gaze cue did not. Participants had to conduct four tasks during the experiment. In the first task, participants were instructed to indicate the direction of the gaze cue (either dynamic or static). In each trial, the gaze cue was randomly presented to one single eye, while the masking stimulus (dynamic Mondrian pattern) was presented to the other eye. Thus, the dominant and non-dominant eye of each participant could be learned. In the following two tasks, the gaze cue was presented to the non-dominant eye, while the masking was presented to the dominant eye. In the second task, a visual target was presented on either the cued (valid trial) or the un-cued (invalid trial) location following the gaze cue display. Participants were asked to indicate the target position as accurately and quickly as possible. In the third task, participants had to (1) detect whether the gaze cue had been presented and (2) indicate the direction of the certain cue (either dynamic or static) when it appeared. The last task was the same as the second task except that the masking stimulus was removed. The main results showed that (1) eyes’ movement influenced GCE at the subliminal level. RTs were shorter in the valid trials than in the invalid trials with dynamic cues, suggesting a classical GCE. However, GCE disappeared with static cues. (2) Furthermore, GCE was enhanced when the cue was dynamic at the supraliminal level. Thus, GCE could only be found with the dynamic cue at the subliminal level, though it could be observed with both the dynamic and static cues at the supraliminal level. This suggested that eye movement plays a key role in the subliminal gaze following and attention shift could not be triggered by the static gaze cue without awareness. The present findings provided behavioral evidence for the interactive model of social perception and the theory of mind.

Key words: gaze-cueing effect, continuous flash suppression, cue type