Automaticity of social cues: The influence of limiting cognitive resources on head orientation cueing

Troy A.W. Visser, Ashton Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Our ability to communicate effectively often relies on being able to shift our focus of attention to align with that of another person. This so-called "social attention" reflects the use of cues such as gaze, pointing and head orientation to infer the attentional focus of others. An important, but unresolved, question is whether these socially relevant cues automatically direct attention in observers, or whether cognitive resources shape this process. An additional issue is that existing work has almost exclusively examined eye gaze cues, thus potentially limiting the generalizability of this work across types of social cues. To examine these issues, the present research investigates the influence of limiting resource availability (using a concurrent memory load) on the ability of an oriented head cue to direct attention. The results indicate that reducing resource availability increases the impact of the head cue on attentional orienting - the opposite pattern to that obtained with gaze cues. This outcome suggests that resource availability does not affect all social cues the same, and that caution is warranted in drawing broad conclusions about mechanisms underlying social cueing of attention without appropriate comparisons across multiple types of social cues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10288
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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