Dana Hayward

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VSS Best Poster Awards 2013

Social and temporal orienting: Linked or independent?

Dana Hayward1, Jelena Ristic1; 1-Psychology Department, McGill University

Spatial and temporal orienting are thought to constitute independent, parallel processes (e.g., Nobre, 2001). However, less is known about the relationship between social orienting, i.e., shifts of attention elicited by gaze direction to a particular location in space, and temporal orienting, i.e., shifts of attention elicited to particular moments in time. Namely, it is possible that temporal expectancy about when a target will occur might modulate spatial orienting elicited by a social gaze cue, thus questioning the proposed automaticity of social attention. To address this question, we presented participants with spatially uninformative gaze direction and temporally informative non-spatial cues, both in isolation and in conjunction, within the same task. Additionally, to determine whether the overall tonic alertness level of participants infl uenced either social or temporal orienting, half of all participants were assigned to the high alertness condition, where a response target was present on the majority of trials, while the other half were assigned to the low alertness condition, where a response target was present on fewer trials.

Social orienting was resilient across all manipulations, emerging in its typical form regardless of whether gaze cues were presented in isolation, in competition with temporal cues or under changing levels of alertness. Temporal orienting proceeded in parallel with social orienting; however its effects emerged only when alertness was low. These data suggest that social and temporal orienting draw on different underlying attentional mechanisms. Social orienting appears to involve automatic processes while temporal orienting and alertness depend on executive, top-down processes.

Acknowledgement: NSERC

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Dana Hayward's Poster - Social and temporal orienting: Linked or independent?