Gaze Cueing as a Key to Joint Attention Mechanisms: Essential Research Findings



The paper provides a theoretical overview of research on joint attention using the gaze cueing paradigm. Joint attention is considered as a set of abilities to detect the object of another person’s attention and to facilitate identification of the object of one’s own attention for the others. The evolution of joint attention in the context of human communication development and the stages of its ontogenу are outlined. The hypothetic mechanisms of joint attention are examined in detail and the results of experiments aimed at identifying these mechanisms are discussed. The relative contribution of the geometry of human eyes, on the one hand, and the context of the gaze cueing (gaze owner identity, cueing situation, etc.), on the other, to the cueing effect on detecting a target in the visual field is demonstrated. The main inconsistencies in the results of experiments and their possible sources are highlighted, and promising areas for further research are indicated. The possibilities of research in joint attention through the prism of the cultural-historical approach are analyzed.

General Information

Keywords: joint attention, spatial cueing, gaze cueing, socialization, mental state attribution

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article


Funding. This research was supported by the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies (2021).

Received: 01.09.2021


For citation: Shevel T.M., Falikman M.V. Gaze Cueing as a Key to Joint Attention Mechanisms: Essential Research Findings. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2022. Vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 6–16. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2022180101. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Vygotskii L.S. Izbrannye psikhologicheskie issledovaniya: Myshlenie i rech’. Problemy psikhologicheskogo razvitiya rebenka [Selected Psychological Research: Thinking and Speaking. Problems of the psychological development of the child]. Moscow: APN RSFSR, 1956. (In Russ.).
  2. Vygotskii L.S. Istoriya razvitiya vysshikh psikhicheskikh funktsii. Sobr.soch. v 6 tomakh, [The history of the development of higher mental functions. Col.wor. in 6 volumes], 1983, Vol. 3. Moscow: Pedagogika. (In Russ.).
  3. Zotov M.V., Andrianova N.E., Vojt A.P. “Niskhodyashchee” i “voskhodyashchee” sovmestnoe vnimanie v neverbal’noi kommunikatsii [Top-down and bottom-up joint attention in nonverbal communication]. Rossiiskii zhurnal kognitivnoi nauki [Russian Journal of Cognitive Science], 2015. Vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 6—23. (In Russ.).
  4. Zotov M.V., Andrianova N.E., Vojt A.P. Rol’ poliperspektivnykh reprezentatsii v protsessakh sovmestnogo vnimaniya [The Role of Multiperspective Representations in Joint Attention Processes]. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2015. Vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 16—27. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2015110202 (In Russ.).
  5. Men’shikova G.Ya., Lunyakova E.G., Kovalev A.I. Vliyanie rasovoi prinadlezhnosti litsa na vyrazhennost’ effekta vzglyada-podskazki: metod aitrekinga [The influence of the race of a person on the severity of the gaze-hint effect: the eye-tracking method]. Natsional’nyi psikhologicheskii zhurnal [National psychological journal], 2017. Vol 2, no. 26. DOI:10.11621/npj.2017.0206 (In Russ.).
  6. Petrova A.O., Lunyakova E.G., Falikman, M.V. Effekt vzglyada-podskazki v virtual’noi srede: vliyanie sotsial’noi ustanovki i sotsial’noi distantsii [The effect of a glance-hint in a virtual environment: the influence of social attitude and social distance]. Psikhologiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki [Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics], 2021. Vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 211— 223. DOI:10.17323/1813-8918-2021-1-211-223 (In Russ.).
  7. Falikman M.V. Sovmestnoe vnimanie: rol’ v rechevom i sotsial’nom razvitii rebenka i vozmozhnosti interventsii pri RAS [Joint attention: the role in speech and social development of the child and the possibilities of intervention in ASD]. Ot rozhdeniya do vzroslosti [From birth to adulthood]. Moscow: Terevinf, 2019, pp. 55—58. (In Russ.).
  8. Holmogorova A.B. Rol’ idei L.S. Vygotskogo dlya stanovleniya paradigmy sotsial’nogo poznaniya v sovremennoi psikhologii: obzor zarubezhnykh issledovanii i obsuzhdenie perspektiv [The role of L.S. Vygotsky for the formation of the paradigm of social cognition in modern psychology: a review of foreign research and discussion of prospects]. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2015. Vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 25—43. DOI:10.17759/ chp.2015110304 (In Russ).
  9. Alwall N., Johansson D., Hansen S. The gender difference in gaze-cueing: Associations with empathizing and systemizing. Personality and Individual Differences, 2010. Vol. 49, no. 7, pp. 729—732. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2010.06.016
  10. Ando S. Luminance-induced shift in the apparent direction of gaze. Perception, 2002. Vol. 31, no. 6, pp. 657—674. DOI:10.1068/p3332
  11. de Araújo M.F., de Castro W.A., Nishimaru H., Urakawa S., Ono T., Nishijo H. Performance in a gaze-cueing task is associated with autistic traits. AIMS neuroscience, 2021. Vol. 8, no. 1, 148 p. DOI:10.3934/Neuroscience.2021007
  12. Baldwin D. Understanding the link between joint attention and language. Joint attention: Its origins and role in development, 1995, pp. 131—158.
  13. Baron-Cohen S. Theory of mind and autism: A fifteen year review. Understanding other minds: Perspectives from developmental cognitive neuroscience, 2000. Vol. 2, no. 3—20, 102 p.
  14. Bates E., Benigni L., Bretherton I., Camaioni L., Volterra V. Emergence of Symbols Cognition and Communication in Infancy. N.Y.: Academic Press, 1979.
  15. Bayliss A.P., Tipper S.P. Gaze cues evoke both spatial and object-centered shifts of attention. Perception & Psychophysics, 2006. Vol. 68, no. 2, pp. 310—318. DOI:10.3758/ BF03193678
  16. Bruner J. Child’s talk: Learning to use language. New York: Norton, 1983.
  17. Butterworth G. The ontogeny and phylogeny of joint visual attention. In A. Whiten (Ed.). Natural theories of mind: Evolution, development and simulation of everyday mindreading, 1991, pp. 223—232.
  18. Butterworth G., Jarrett N. What minds have in common is space: Spatial mechanisms serving joint visual attention in infancy. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1991. Vol. 9, no 1, pp. 55—72. DOI:10.1111/j.2044-835X.1991.tb00862.x
  19. Carraro L., Dalmaso M., Castelli L. The appeal of the devil’s eye: social evaluation affects social attention. Cognitive Processing, 2017. Vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 97—103. DOI:10.1007/ s10339-016-0785-2
  20. Charman T. Why is joint attention a pivotal skill in autism? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 2003. Vol. 358, no. 1430, pp. 315—324. DOI:10.1098/rstb.2002.1199
  21. Charman T., Baron-Cohen S., Swettenham J., Baird G., Cox A., Drew A. Testing joint attention, imitation, and play as infancy precursors to language and theory of mind. Cognitive development, 2000. Vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 481—498. DOI:10.1016/ S0885-2014(01)00037-5
  22. Cole G.G., Smith D.T., Atkinson M.A. Mental state attribution and the gaze cueing effect. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 2015. Vol. 77, no. 4, pp. 1105—1115. DOI:10.3758/s13414-014-0780-6
  23. Corkum V., Moore C. The origins of joint visual attention in infants. Developmental psychology, 1998. Vol. 34, no. 1, 28 p. DOI:10.1037/0012-1649.34.1.28
  24. Driver J., Davis G., Ricciardelli P., Kidd P., Maxwell E., Baron-Cohen S. Gaze perception triggers visuospatial orienting by adults in a reflexive manner. Visual Cognition, 1999. Vol. 6, no. 5, pp. 509—540.
  25. Freebody S, Kuhn G. Own-age biases in adults’ and children’s joint attention: Biased face prioritization, but not gaze following! Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (Hove), 2018. Vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 372—379. DOI:10.1080/1747 0218.2016.1247899
  26. Friesen C.K., Kingstone A. The eyes have it! Reflexive orienting is triggered by nonpredictive gaze. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1998. Vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 490—495. DOI:10.3758/BF03208827
  27. Friesen C.K., Moore C., Kingstone A. Does gaze direction really trigger a reflexive shift of spatial attention? Brain and Cognition, 2005. Vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 66—69. DOI:10.1016/j.bandc.2004.08.025
  28. Friesen C.K., Ristic J., Kingstone A. Attentional effects of counterpredictive gaze and arrow cues. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 2004. Vol. 30, no. 2, 319 p. DOI:10.1037/0096-1523.30.2.319
  29. Frischen A., Bayliss A.P., Tipper S.P. Gaze cueing of attention: visual attention, social cognition, and individual differences. Psychological Bulletin, 2007. Vol. 133, no. 4, 694 p. DOI:10.1037/0033-2909.133.4.694
  30. Frischen A., Tipper S.P. Orienting attention via observed gaze shift evokes longer term inhibitory effects: implications for social interactions, attention, and memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2004. Vol. 133, no. 4, 516 p. DOI:10.1037/0096-3445.133.4.516
  31. Gobel M. S., Giesbrecht B. Social information rapidly prioritizes overt but not covert attention in a joint spatial cueing task. Acta Psychologica, 2002. Vol. 211, 103188 p.
  32. Jones E.A., Carr E.G. Joint attention in children with autism: Theory and intervention. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 2004. Vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 13—26. DO I:10.1177/10883576040190010301
  33. Jonides J. Voluntary versus automatic control over the mind’s eye’s movement. Attention and Performance, 1981, pp. 187—203.
  34. Joyce K., Schenke K., Bayliss A., Bach P. Looking ahead: Anticipatory cueing of attention to objects others will look at. Cognitive Neuroscience, 2016. Vol. 7, no. 1—4, pp. 74— 81. DOI:10.1080/17588928.2015.1053443
  35. Kingstone A., Kachkovski G., Vasilyev D., Kuk M., Welsh T.N. Mental attribution is not sufficient or necessary to trigger attentional orienting to gaze. Cognition, 2019. Vol. 189, pp. 35—40. DOI:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.03.010
  36. Lassalle A., Itier R.J. Fearful, surprised, happy, and angry facial expressions modulate gaze-oriented attention: Behavioral and ERP evidence. Social neuroscience, 2013. Vol. 8, no. 6, pp. 583—600. DOI:10.1080/17470919.2013.835750
  37. Mayhew J.A., Gómez J.C. Gorillas with white sclera: A naturally occurring variation in a morphological trait linked to social cognitive functions. American Journal of Primatology, 2015. Vol. 77, no. 8, pp. 869—877. DOI:10.1002/ajp.22411
  38. Michel C., Pauen S., Hoehl S. Schematic eye-gaze cues influence infants’ object encoding dependent on their contrast polarity. Scientific Reports, 2017. Vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 1—8. DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-07445-9
  39. Morales M., Mundy P., Delgado C.E., Yale M., Neal R., Schwartz H.K. Gaze following, temperament, and language development in 6-month-olds: A replication and extension. Infant Behavior and Development, 2000. Vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 231—236. DOI:10.1016/S0163-6383(01)00038-8
  40. Mundy P., Gomes A. Individual differences in joint attention skill development in the second year. Infant behavior and development, 1998. Vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 469—482. DOI:10.1016/S0163-6383(98)90020-0
  41. Nagai Y., Hosoda K., Morita A., Asada M. A constructive model for the development of joint attention. Connection Science, 2003. Vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 211—229. DOI:10.1080/095 40090310001655101
  42. Nelson P.B., Adamson L.B., and Bakeman R. Toddlers’ joint engagement experience facilitates preschoolers’ acquisition of theory of mind. Dev. Sci, 2008. Vol. 11, pp. 847— 852. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00733.x
  43. Posner M.I., Nissen M.J., Ogden W.C. Attended and unattended processing modes: The role of set for spatial location. Modes of perceiving and processing information, 1978. Vol. 137, no. 158, pp. 137—157.
  44. Ricciardelli P., Baylis G., Driver J. The positive and negative of human expertise in gaze perception. Cognition, 2000. Vol. 77, no. 1, pp. B1—B14. DOI:10.1016/S0010-0277(00)00092-5
  45. Ristic J., Kingstone, A. Taking control of reflexive social attention. Cognition, 2005. Vol. 94, no. 3, pp. B55—B65. DOI:10.1016/j.cognition.2004.04.005
  46. Ristic J., Mottron L., Friesen C.K., Iarocci G., Burack J.A., Kingstone A. Eyes are special but not for everyone: The case of autism. Cognitive Brain Research, 2005. Vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 715—718. DOI:10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.02.007
  47. Ristic J., Wright A., Kingstone A. Attentional control and reflexive orienting to gaze and arrow cues. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2007. Vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 964—969. DOI:10.3758/BF03194129
  48. Scaife M., Bruner J. S. The capacity for joint visual attention in the infant. Nature, 1975. Vol. 253, no. 5489, pp. 265—266.
  49. Senju A., Tojo Y., Dairoku H., Hasegawa T. Reflexive orienting in response to eye gaze and an arrow in children with and without autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2004. Vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 445—458. DOI:10.1111/ j.1469-7610.2004.00236.x
  50. Takahashi K., Watanabe K. Gaze cueing by pareidolia faces. i-Perception, 2013. Vol. 4, no. 8, pp. 490—492. DOI:10.1068/i0617sas
  51. Tatler B.W., Kuhn G. Don’t look now: The magic of misdirection. Eye movements: A window on mind and brain, 2007, pp. 697—714. Elsevier. DOI:10.1016/B978-008044980- 7/50035-5
  52. Theeuwes J. Exogenous and endogenous control of attention: The effect of visual onsets and offsets. Perception & Psychophysics, 1991. Vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 83—90. DOI:10.3758/ BF03211619
  53. Tomasello M. Joint attention as social cognition. In C. Moore & P.J. Dunham (Eds.). Joint attention: Its origins and role in development, 1995. pp. 103—130.
  54. Tomasello M., Carpenter M., Call J., Behne T., Moll H. Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2005. Vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 675—691. DOI:10.1017/S0140525X05000129
  55. Tomasello M., Hare B., Agnetta B. Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, follow gaze direction geometrically. Animal Behaviour, 1998. Vol. 58, pp. 769—777. DOI:10.1006/anbe.1999.1192
  56. Tomasello М., Hare B., Lehmann H., Call J. Reliance on head versus eyes in the gaze following of great apes and human infants: the cooperative eye hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution, 2007. Vol. 52, pp. 314—320. DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.10.001
  57. Van der Stigchel S., Theeuwes J. The relationship between covert and overt attention in endogenous cuing. Perception & Psychophysics, 2007. Vol. 69, no. 5, pp. 719—731. DOI:10.3758/BF03193774.
  58. Vaughan Van Hecke A., Mundy P., Acra C., Block J.J., Delgado C.E.F., Parlade M., Meyer J., and Pomares Y.B. Infant joint attention, temperament, and social competence in preschool children. Child Development. 2007. Vol. 78, pp. 53— 69. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00985.x
  59. Wiese E., Wykowska A., Zwickel J., Müller H.J. I see what you mean: How attentional selection is shaped by ascribing intentions to others. PloS one, 2012. Vol. 7, no. 9, pp. e45391. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0045391

Information About the Authors

Tatiana M. Shevel, Research Assistant in Laboratory for Cognitive Research, the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Maria V. Falikman, Doctor of Psychology, Head, School of Psychology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Research Fellow, Institute for Social Sciences, RANEPA, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 1448
Previous month: 79
Current month: 35


Total: 390
Previous month: 12
Current month: 3