Gaze cues influence memory...but not for long

Michael D. Dodd, Noah Weiss, Gerald P. McDonnell, Amara Sarwal, Alan Kingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Many factors influence the manner in which material is encoded into memory, with one of the most important determinants of subsequent memorability being the degree to which an item is attended at study. Attentional gaze manipulations - which occur when a task-irrelevant face at fixation looks towards or away from a target - have been shown to enhance attention such that stimuli that are gazed at elicit quicker responses. In the present study, four experiments were conducted to determine whether attentional gaze cues can also influence the recall of items appearing at gazed-at or gazed-away from locations. In Experiment 1, an irrelevant gaze cue at fixation preceded the presentation of to-be-remembered items, with each item remaining on screen for 1000. ms. Gaze direction had no effect on memory for words. In Experiment 2, the presentation time for to-be-remembered items was reduced to 250. ms or 500. ms. Now gazed at items were more memorable. In Experiment 3, we manipulate the intentionality of the memory instruction and demonstrate that gaze cues influence memory even when participants are not explicitly attempting to memorize items. Finally, Experiment 4 demonstrates that these findings are specific to gaze cues as no memory effect is observed when arrow cues are presented. It is argued that gaze cues can modify memory for items, but that this effect is primarily attributable to shifts of attention away from target items when a gaze cue is invalid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-275
Number of pages6
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Attention
  • Gaze cues
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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