Humans are sensitive to attention control when predicting others' actions

A. Pesquita, C.S. Chapman, James T. Enns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of social perception report acute human sensitivity to where another's attention is aimed. Here we ask whether humans are also sensitive to how the other's attention is deployed. Observers viewed videos of actors reaching to targetswithout knowing that those actors were sometimes choosing to reach to one of the targets (endogenous control) and sometimes being directed to reach to one of the targets (exogenous control). Experiments 1 and 2 showed that observers could respond more rapidly when actors chose where to reach, yet were at chance when guessing whether the reach was chosen or directed. This implicit sensitivity to attention control held when either actor's faces or limbs were masked (experiment 3) and when only the earliest actor's movements were visible (experiment 4). Individual differences in sensitivity to choice correlated with an independent measure of social aptitude. We conclude that humans are sensitive to attention control through an implicit kinematic process linked to empathy. The findings support the hypothesis that social cognition involves the predictive modeling of others' attentional states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8669-8674
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2016


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