Objects that direct visuospatial attention produce the search advantage for facing dyads

Tim Vestner, Harriet Over, Katie L H Gray, Richard Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


When hidden among pairs of individuals facing in the same direction, pairs of individuals arranged front-to-front are found faster in visual search tasks than pairs of individuals arranged back-to-back. Two rival explanations have been advanced to explain this search advantage for facing dyads. According to one account, the search advantage reflects the fact that front-to-front targets engage domain-specific social interaction processing that helps stimuli compete more effectively for limited attentional resources. Another view is that the effect is a by-product of the ability of individual heads and bodies to direct observers' visuospatial attention. Here, we describe a two-part investigation that sought to test these accounts. First, we found that it is possible to replicate the search advantage with nonsocial objects. Next, we employed a cuing paradigm to investigate whether it is the ability of individual items to direct observers' visuospatial attention that determines if an object category produces the search advantage for facing dyads. We found that the strength of the cuing effect produced by an object category correlated closely with the strength of the search advantage produced by that object category. Taken together, these results provide strong support for the directional cuing account. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of experimental psychology. General
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Cues
  • Human Body
  • Humans
  • Social Interaction


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