There is growing interest in the visual and attentional processes recruited when human observers view social scenes containing multiple people. Findings from visual search paradigms have helped shape this emerging literature. Previous research has established that, when hidden amongst pairs of individuals facing in the same direction (leftwards or rightwards), pairs of individuals arranged front-to-front are found faster than pairs of individuals arranged back-to-back. Here, we describe a second, closely-related effect with important theoretical implications. When searching for a pair of individuals facing in the same direction (leftwards or rightwards), target dyads are found faster when hidden amongst distractor pairs arranged front-to-front, than when hidden amongst distractor pairs arranged back-to-back. This distractor arrangement effect was also obtained with target and distractor pairs constructed from arrows and types of common objects that cue visuospatial attention. These findings argue against the view that pairs of people arranged front-to-front capture exogenous attention due to a domain-specific orienting mechanism. Rather, it appears that salient direction cues (e.g., gaze direction, body orientation, arrows) hamper systematic search and impede efficient interpretation, when distractor pairs are arranged back-to-back.
- Human Body
- Reaction Time