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Carmela Gottesman; Subtle social cues: Does another person’s body orientation direct our attention?. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):266d. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.266d.
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The effectiveness of gaze as a directional cue has been demonstrated in many studies but is the body orientation of people in scenes influencing the viewer’s distribution of attention? Four pictures of each of 24 scenes were created. A person was always in the middle of the picture and his/her body was oriented either towards the right or the left of the scene. In half the pictures the person was looking in the same direction as their body orientation (profile view). In the other, they were looking at the camera (frontal view). Six versions of each picture were created by adding a small colored cross in different locations in the scene. Participants were asked to locate the cross as quickly as possible. When the person in the scene was turned toward the part of the scene where the cross was, reaction times (RTs) were faster than when the person was turned the other way. This effect was found for both profile and frontal views. There was also an overall effect of view, where RTs for the profile views were faster than for the frontal views. This general effect was likely due to the inhibitory effect of the direct gaze in the frontal view, as the effect was not larger when the person in the picture was looking toward the area of the scene where the cross was compared to the other direction. However, when only the crosses in the direct path of the person’s gaze in the profile view were compared, participants were faster when the person was looking in the cross’s direction. Therefore, we found evidence that while gaze helped when targets were roughly in the line of sight, the bodily orientation of people in the scenes significantly cued larger areas of the scene, influencing viewers’ attention distribution.
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