The Temporal Dynamics of Social Cue Processing




Xu, Buyun

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Social cues, such as eye gaze and head-turns, can orient attention automatically. Social cue processing includes three sequential stages, namely cue selection, cue following and object recognition. In a typical social cueing task, a central face is presented and then attention is directed to potential target location by an eye gaze or head turn. In these paradigms, the standard finding is that despite the non-predictive nature of the cue (i.e., the target is as likely to appear at the validly cued location as the invalidly cued location), targets appearing at the validly cued location are detected and identified faster than targets presented at the invalidly cued location. The cueing effect starts to emerge at short cue-target stimulus onset asynchronies (SOA) (e.g., 105 ms) and diminishes at the long SOA (e.g., 1005 ms). However, because only one object was presented on one side of the center gaze cue in these paradigms, the social cueing effect could be interfered or abolished by the peripheral onset effect (i.e., the automatic orienting of attention by the abrupt appearance of a single object event). The goal of this dissertation was to develop a modified social cueing task to measure the temporal dynamics of social cue processing while eliminating the potential confounds from the peripheral onset effect. In the Cued Recognition Task, the peripheral onset effect is removed by simultaneously presenting a target and a distractor object following a non-predictive head-turn cue. Results from a series of experiments using the Cued Recognition Task showed that: (a) if the distractor was not presented on the opposite side of the target, the peripheral onset effect elicited by the target onset interfered with the social cueing effect elicited by the head-turn; (b) in the cued recognition paradigm, the reflexive attention orientation effect elicited by social cues could be inhibited at 0 ms of SOA, started to emerge at 105 ms of SOA, became stable at 300 and 600 ms of SOA and sustained at 1005 ms of SOA; (c) children with ASD showed equivalent magnitude of social cueing effect as TD controls, but they were slower across all conditions despite the fact that they were as fast as TD controls in object recognition. The Cued Recognition Model developed based on all the findings in this dissertation was described in order to provide an explicit explanation of how social cues influence everyday object recognition.



Social Cue, Peripheral Onset Effect, Temporal Dynamics, Attention Orientation, ASD