Attentional cueing: fearful body postures capture attention with saccades

Rachel L. Bannerman, Maarten V. Milders, Arash Sahraie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


According to theories of attention and emotion, threat-related stimuli (e.g., negative facial expressions) capture and hold attention. Despite these theories, previous examination of attentional cueing by threat showed no enhanced capture at brief durations. One explanation for the absence of attentional capture effects may be related to the sensitivity of the manual response measure employed. Here we extended beyond facial expressions and investigated the time course of orienting attention towards fearful body postures in the exogenous cueing task. Cue duration (20, 40, 60, or 100 ms), orientation (upright or inverted), and response mode (saccadic eye movement or manual keypress) were manipulated across three experiments. In the saccade mode, both enhanced attentional capture and impaired disengagement from fearful bodies were evident and limited to rapid cue durations (20 and 40 ms), suggesting that saccadic cueing effects emerge rapidly and are short lived. In the manual mode, fearful bodies impacted only upon the disengagement component of attention at 100 ms, suggesting that manual cueing effects emerge over longer periods of time. No cueing modulation was found for inverted presentation, suggesting that valence, not low-level image confounds, was responsible for the cueing effects. Importantly, saccades could reveal threat biases at brief cue durations consistent with current theories of emotion and attention.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2010


  • saccades
  • emotion
  • body postures
  • attention


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