Social gaze cueing elicits facilitatory and inhibitory effects on movement execution when the model might act on an object

Xiaoye Michael Wang*, April Karlinsky, Merryn Constable, Samantha Gregory, Timothy N. Welsh

*Corresponding author for this work

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Social cues, such as eye gaze and pointing fingers, can increase the prioritisation of specific locations for cognitive processing. A previous study using a manual reaching task showed that, although both gaze and pointing cues altered target prioritisation (reaction times [RTs]), only pointing cues affected action execution (trajectory deviations). These differential effects of gaze and pointing cues on action execution could be because the gaze cue was conveyed through a disembodied head; hence, the model lacked the potential for a body part (i.e., hands) to interact with the target. In the present study, the image of a male gaze model, whose gaze direction coincided with two potential target locations, was centrally presented. The model either had his arms and hands extended underneath the potential target locations, indicating the potential to act on the targets (Experiment 1), or had his arms crossed in front of his chest, indicating the absence of potential to act (Experiment 2). Participants reached to a target that followed a nonpredictive gaze cue at one of three stimulus onset asynchronies. RTs and reach trajectories of the movements to cued and uncued targets were analysed. RTs showed a facilitation effect for both experiments, whereas trajectory analysis revealed facilitatory and inhibitory effects, but only in Experiment 1 when the model could potentially act on the targets. The results of this study suggested that when the gaze model had the potential to interact with the cued target location, the model’s gaze affected not only target prioritisation but also movement execution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-241
Number of pages12
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date31 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

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