Eye gaze does not produce reflexive shifts of attention: Evidence from frontal-lobe damage

Shaun P. Vecera, Matthew Rizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Humans are able to predict the behavior of others using visual information. Several studies have argued that social cues, such as eye gaze direction, can influence the allocation of visual attention in a reflexive manner. We have previously shown that a patient with frontal-lobe damage, patient EVR, can use peripheral cues to direct attention but cannot use either word cues or gaze cues to allocate attention. These findings suggest that 'social attention' may involve frontal-lobe processes that control voluntary, not automatic, shifts of visuospatial attention. In the current paper, we further examine 'social attention' in EVR and demonstrate that his failure to orient attention voluntarily cannot be attributed to either cue predictability or a 'sluggish' attentional system. EVR exhibits a general impairment in orienting attention endogenously, and this impairment includes orienting from gaze cues. Gaze cues direct attention in a voluntary, not a reflexive, manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-159
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Eye gaze direction
  • Frontal-lobes
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Social attention
  • Theory of mind
  • Ventromedial frontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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