Seminar Series

Do the Eyes Have it? Cues to the Direction of Social Attention

The face communicates an impressive amount of visual information. We use it to identify its owner, how they are feeling and to help us understand what they are saying. Models of face processing have considered how we extract these kinds of meaning from the face but have ignored another important facial signal - eye gaze. I will begin by reviewing evidence suggesting that the eyes may constitute a special stimulus in at least two senses. First, the eye's structure is such that it provides us with a particularly powerful signal to the direction of another person's gaze, and second, we may have evolved neural mechanisms devoted to gaze processing. However, understanding where another individual is directing their attention involves more than simply analysing their gaze direction. I will go on to describe research that suggests that other cues such as head orientation and pointing gestures make significant contributions to the computation of another's direction of attention.