ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (7): 748-760.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.00748

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The impact and mechanism of gaze cues on object-based attention

YAN Chi1, GAO Yunfei1, HU Saisai1, SONG Fangxing2,3, WANG Yonghui1(), ZHAO Jingjing1()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University; Shaanxi Key Laboratory and Cognitive Neuroscience; Shaanxi Provincial Key Research Center of Child Mental and Behavioral Health, Xi’an 710062, China
    2CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    3Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2021-10-03 Published:2022-07-25 Online:2022-05-19
  • Contact: WANG Yonghui,ZHAO Jingjing;
  • Supported by:
    Youth Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China(31700945);youth talent lift program of Shaanxi University Association Science for science and technology(20210206)


Eye contact plays an important role in social interaction and in capturing and maintaining attention. However, it is not clear how the eye contact interacts with objects to guide attentional allocation. Therefore, using the two-rectangle paradigm and faces or objects with different gaze directions (direct or averted gaze), the aim of our study is to explore the effects and underlying mechanisms of eye contact on object-based attention by manipulating the stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). In Experiment 1, it was found that the effect of eye contact on object-based effect only appeared in 300 ms SOA condition. The difference of object-based effect between direct and averted gaze came from the fact that participants reacted more quickly to the target in the invalid same condition of direct gaze than averted gaze, which suggested that direct gaze could capture rather than maintain our attention, resulting in a larger object- based effect. In Experiment 2, the contrast of the faces was reversed, but the difference of object-based effect between direct and averted gaze disappeared, thus excluding the effect of low-level physical characteristics. In Experiment 3, two eyes were overlaid with the cups as the stimuli to explore whether the gaze effect could be extended to other objects. The result was the same as Experiment 1. The results of this study showed that eye contact could interact with objects to guide attention distribution, and direct gaze could capture our attention. However, the object-based effect of eye contact was changeable in different SOA conditions. Our results supported the sensory enhancement theory.

Key words: object-based attention, eye contact, social interaction, sensory enhancement theory, top-down processing