Automatic spatial coding of perceived gaze direction is revealed by the Simon effect

Marco Zorzi, Daniela Mapelli, Elena Rusconi, Carlo Umiltà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a typical Simon task, the (irrelevant) spatial position of the stimulus interferes with the processing of the salient characteristic (e.g., color). We used the Simon effect to investigate the automatic processing of gaze cues. We show that a simple drawing of schematic eyes automatically generates a spatially defined code of gaze direction. Although completely irrelevant to the task, direction of gaze influenced reaction times in a spatially selective two-choice discrimination based on eye color. Moreover, in one experiment employing an orthogonal manipulation of stimulus position and gaze direction, we found that coding of gaze direction is independent of stimulus spatial coding. Our finding of a "gaze-direction Simon effect" is congruent with the hypothesis that gaze direction is coded by a specialized mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-429
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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