In everyday life, directional cues provide a rich source of visual information that can influence human behavior in many ways. Directional cues from people and other animals, such as their eye gaze direction or head orientation, provide an indication of where their attention is directed, and thus can alert us to potentially important objects and events in our environment. Other, nonbiological, directional cues such as arrows can perform a similar function. Recently it was discovered that gaze and arrow cues trigger a shift of attention that is fast and automatic. The research to date has focused on measuring this attentional shift using a single cue and a single target; however, in the real world we are continually exposed to a variety of directional cues, and these cues almost always appear within a rich and complex visual context, and often in situations in which our goals and affective states are influential. The overall objective of this project is to understand how we process, respond to, and make use of directional cues in our daily lives. Specifically, the goals of this project are: to investigate the effects of directional cues in rich visual environments; to identify, using electrophysiological recording techniques, the neural activity associated with shifting attention in response to directional cues; to explore the roles of context, attentional control, and conscious awareness in orienting to directional cues; and to identify the essential properties of visual directional information and investigate how this information can be most effectively conveyed. This research will lead to a refinement of our theories of human spatial attention in general, and of the neural processes that underlie shifts of spatial attention in response to biologically and socially relevant directional information in the visual environment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
Exploratory Grants (P20)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-RI-5 (02))
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North Dakota State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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