Rapid detection of social interactions is the result of domain general attentional processes

Jonathan C Flavell, Harriet Over, Tim Vestner, Richard Cook, Steven P Tipper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Using visual search displays of interacting and non-interacting pairs, it has been demonstrated that detection of social interactions is facilitated. For example, two people facing each other are found faster than two people with their backs turned: an effect that may reflect social binding. However, recent work has shown the same effects with non-social arrow stimuli, where towards facing arrows are detected faster than away facing arrows. This latter work suggests a primary mechanism is an attention orienting process driven by basic low-level direction cues. However, evidence for lower level attentional processes does not preclude a potential additional role of higher-level social processes. Therefore, in this series of experiments we test this idea further by directly comparing basic visual features that orient attention with representations of socially interacting individuals. Results confirm the potency of orienting of attention via low-level visual features in the detection of interacting objects. In contrast, there is little evidence for the representation of social interactions influencing initial search performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0258832
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Social Interaction


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