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Stéphanie M. Morand, Marie-Hélène Grosbras, Roberto Caldara, Monika Harvey; Looking away from faces: Influence of high-level visual processes on saccade programming. Journal of Vision 2010;10(3):16. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/10.3.16.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Human faces capture attention more than other visual stimuli. Here we investigated whether such face-specific biases rely on automatic (involuntary) or voluntary orienting responses. To this end, we used an anti-saccade paradigm, which requires the ability to inhibit a reflexive automatic response and to generate a voluntary saccade in the opposite direction of the stimulus. To control for potential low-level confounds in the eye-movement data, we manipulated the high-level visual properties of the stimuli while normalizing their global low-level visual properties. Eye movements were recorded in 21 participants who performed either pro- or anti-saccades to a face, car, or noise pattern, randomly presented to the left or right of a fixation point. For each trial, a symbolic cue instructed the observer to generate either a pro-saccade or an anti-saccade. We report a significant increase in anti-saccade error rates for faces compared to cars and noise patterns, as well as faster pro-saccades to faces and cars in comparison to noise patterns. These results indicate that human faces induce stronger involuntary orienting responses than other visual objects, i.e., responses that are beyond the control of the observer. Importantly, this involuntary processing cannot be accounted for by global low-level visual factors.
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