Gaze and arrow distractors influence saccade trajectories similarly

Frouke Hermens, Robin Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Perceiving someone's averted eye-gaze is thought to result in an automatic shift of attention and in the preparation of an oculomotor response in the direction of perceived gaze. Although gaze cues have been regarded as being special in this respect, recent studies have found evidence for automatic attention shifts with nonsocial stimuli, such as arrow cues. Here, we directly compared the effects of social and nonsocial cues on eye movement preparation by examining the modulation of saccade trajectories made in the presence of eye-gaze, arrows, or peripheral distractors. At a short stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between the distractor and the target, saccades deviated towards the direction of centrally presented arrow distractors, but away from the peripheral distractors. No significant trajectory deviations were found for gaze distractors. At the longer SOA, saccades deviated away from the direction of the distractor for all three distractor types, but deviations were smaller for the centrally presented gaze and arrow distractors. These effects were independent of whether line-drawings or photos of faces were used and could not be explained by differences in the spatial properties of the peripheral distractor. The results suggest that all three types of distractors (gaze, arrow, peripheral) can induce the automatic programming of an eye movement. Moreover, the findings suggest that gaze and arrow distractors affect oculomotor preparation similarly, whereas peripheral distractors, which are classically regarded as eliciting an automatic shift of attention and an oculomotor response, induce a stronger and faster acting influence on response preparation and the corresponding inhibition of that response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2120-2140
Number of pages21
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • eye movements
  • social attention
  • saccade trajectories


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