Why do we move our head to look at an object in our peripheral region? Lateral viewing interferes with attentive search

Ryoichi Nakashima, Satoshi Shioiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Why do we frequently fixate an object of interest presented peripherally by moving our head as well as our eyes, even when we are capable of fixating the object with an eye movement alone (lateral viewing)? Studies of eye-head coordination for gaze shifts have suggested that the degree of eye-head coupling could be determined by an unconscious weighing of the motor costs and benefits of executing a head movement. The present study investigated visual perceptual effects of head direction as an additional factor impacting on a cost-benefit organization of eye-head control. Three experiments using visual search tasks were conducted, manipulating eye direction relative to head orientation (front or lateral viewing). Results show that lateral viewing increased the time required to detect a target in a search for the letter T among letter L distractors, a serial attentive search task, but not in a search for T among letter O distractors, a parallel preattentive search task (Experiment 1). The interference could not be attributed to either a deleterious effect of lateral gaze on the accuracy of saccadic eye movements, nor to potentially problematic optical effects of binocular lateral viewing, because effect of head directions was obtained under conditions in which the task was accomplished without saccades (Experiment 2), and during monocular viewing (Experiment 3). These results suggest that a difference between the head and eye directions interferes with visual processing, and that the interference can be explained by the modulation of attention by the relative positions of the eyes and head (or head direction).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere92284
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Mar 19


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