The role of perspective taking on attention: a review of the Special Issue on the Reflexive Attentional Shift Phenomenon

Gabriele Pesimena, Christopher Wilson, Marco Bertamini, Alessandro Soranzo

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Attention is a process that alters how cognitive resources are allocated, and it allows individuals to efficiently process information at the attended location. The presence of visual or auditory cues in the environment can direct the focus of attention towards certain stimuli; even if the cued stimuli are not the individual’s primary target. Samson et al. [1] demonstrated that seeing another person in the scene (i.e. a person-like cue) caused a delay in responding to target stimuli not visible to that person: “altercentric intrusion”. This phenomenon, they argue, is dependent upon the fact that the cue used resembled a person as opposed to a more generic directional indicator. The characteristics of the cue are the core of the debate of this special issue. Some maintain that the perceptual-directional characteristics of the cue are sufficient to generate the bias whilst others argue that the cuing is stronger when the cue has social characteristics (relates to what another individual can perceive). The research contained in this issue confirms that human attention is biased by the presence of a directional cue. We discuss and compare the different studies. The pattern that emerges seems to suggest that social relevance of the cue is necessary in some contexts but not in others, depending on the cognitive demand of the experimental task. One possibility is that the social mechanisms are involved in perspective taking when the task is cognitively demanding, whilst they may not play a role in automatic attention allocation.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2019


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