Visual attentional orienting by eye gaze: A meta-analytic review of the gaze-cueing effect

Kate T. McKay, Sarah A. Grainger, Sarah P. Coundouris, Daniel P. Skorich, Louise H. Phillips, Julie D. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Given limitations in the amount of visual information that a person can simultaneously process through to conscious perception, selective visual attention is necessary. Visual signals in the environment aid this selection process by triggering reflexive shifts of covert attention to locations of potential importance. One such signal appears to be others' eye gaze. Indeed, a gaze-cueing effect, whereby healthy adults respond faster to targets that are presented at locations cued rather than miscued by eye gaze has been consistently observed in the empirical literature. Critically though, the influences of task and cue features on this effect are not well understood. To address this gap, we report a meta-analytic integration of 423 gaze-cueing effects using a multilevel approach. A gaze-cueing effect emerged across all levels of the assessed task and cue features, indicating that others' eye gaze reliably directs observers' attention. We found that the magnitude of the gaze-cueing effect was moderated by whether direct gaze cues preceded directional gaze cues or not; the cue-target stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA), whether participants had to detect, localize, or categorize targets; and the cue's facial expression. Whether or not the gaze cue remained on screen after the target appeared, and whether schematic faces, computer-generated faces, or images of real faces were used as cues, did not appear to reliably function as moderators. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed, particularly in relation to the social attention system. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1289
Number of pages21
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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