Developmentally distinct gaze processing systems: Luminance versus geometric cues



Doherty M, McIntyre AH & Langton S (2015) Developmentally distinct gaze processing systems: Luminance versus geometric cues. Cognition, 137, pp. 72-80.

Two experiments examined how the different cues to gaze direction contribute to children’s abilities to follow and make explicit judgments about gaze. In each study participants were shown blurred images of faces containing only luminance cues to gaze direction, line-drawn images containing only fine-grained detail supporting a geometric analysis of gaze direction, and unmanipulated images. In Experiment 1a, 2- and 3- year olds showed gaze-cued orienting of attention in response to unmanipulated and blurred faces, but not line-drawn faces. Adult participants showed cueing effects to line drawn faces as well as the other two types of face cue in Experiment 1b. In Experiment 2, 2-year-olds were poor at judging toward which of four objects blurred and line-drawn faces were gazing, whereas 3- and 4-year-olds performed above chance with these faces. All age groups performed above chance with unmanipulated images. These findings are consistent with an early-developing luminance-based mechanism, which supports gaze following, but which cannot initially support explicit judgments, and a later-developing mechanism, additionally using geometric cues in the eye, which supports explicit judgments about gaze.

Gaze processing; Child development; Luminance gaze cues; Geometrical gaze cues; Theory of mind

Cognition: Volume 137

FundersThe British Academy
Publication date30/04/2015
Publication date online22/01/2015
Date accepted by journal03/01/2015

People (1)


Dr Stephen Langton

Dr Stephen Langton

Senior Lecturer, Psychology

Projects (1)

The Development of Children's Gaze Perception