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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rethinking human attention and its components Ristic, Jelena


People attend to where others are looking. In three sections, spanning six studies and 11 experiments, the present thesis examines whether this social orienting effect is reflexive (Section I), if it should be considered a unique form of attentional orienting (Section II), and how it relates to traditional forms of reflexive and volitional spatial orienting (Section III). The results from Sections I and II indicate that social attention can be conceptualized as a strongly reflexive effect that is unique to eye gaze direction. However, other directional cues, like arrows, trigger similar spatial attention effects although their effects do not appear to be as strongly reflexive as the effects produced by eye gaze. The results from Section III demonstrate that reflexive orienting elicited by an attentional cue positioned at fixation, such as gaze or an arrow, can occur independently of the orienting effects produced by cues that have typically been used to study reflexive and volitional orienting, i.e., nonpredictive peripheral onsets and predictive central cues, respectively. Taken together these results carry important implications for understanding social attention specifically, and the conceptualization and experimental examination of human spatial attention in general.

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