Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pointing a finger work much better than using pointed arrows

Date:
May 2, 2012
Source:
University of Lincoln
Summary:
Images of pointing fingers are much better at diverting people's attention than directional arrows, new psychology research suggests. Researchers have shown that biological cues like an outstretched index finger or a pair of eyes looking to one side affect people's attention even when they are irrelevant to the task at hand. Abstract directional symbols like pointed arrows or the written words "left" and "right" do not have the same effect.

Images of pointing fingers are much better at diverting people's attention than directional arrows, new psychology research suggests.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Perception, researchers at the universities of Exeter and Lincoln showed that biological cues like an outstretched index finger or a pair of eyes looking to one side affect people's attention even when they are irrelevant to the task at hand. Abstract directional symbols like pointed arrows or the written words "left" and "right" do not have the same effect.

Dr Nicola Gregory and Professor Timothy Hodgson compared the influence of eye gaze, finger pointing, arrows and directional word cues on eye movement responses in a series of experiments conducted with students at the University of Exeter.

Participants were asked to look in the opposite direction to a black dot which appeared on the left or right of a computer screen, while an eye tracking device worn on their head recorded how quickly they responded. Before the task began, participants were warned that they would also see images of eyes, hands or arrows pointing left or right, or the written words "left" or "right," but that these images were not relevant to the task and should be ignored.

The researchers found that even though the students had been explicitly instructed to ignore the eye, hand, arrow and word images, the direction in which some of these cues were pointing affected the time it took them to correctly look away from the target dot.

"Interestingly, it was only the cues which were biological -- the eye gaze and finger pointing cues -- which had this effect," said Prof. Hodgson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln. "Road sign arrows and words "left" and "right" had no influence at all. What's more, the eyes and fingers seemed to affect the participants' reaction times even when the images were flashed on the screen for only a tenth of a second."

The authors suggest that the reason that these biological signals may be particularly good at directing attention is because they are used by humans and some other species as forms of non-verbal communication: Where someone is looking or pointing indicates to others not only what they are paying attention to, but also what they might be feeling or what they might be planning on doing next.

The study findings have potential implications for understanding the best way to try to influence peoples' attention in everyday life.

Dr Gregory, now a Research Associate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Rather than using arrows on signposts, it may be prudent to reinstate the traditional 'finger posts' which depicted an extended pointing hand, which are now only seen occasionally in rural areas in the UK, despite their replacements retaining the original name. And rather than the words "look left" or "look right" painted on the road at a pedestrian crossing, a pair of eyes gazing in one or other direction ought to do the job better. They may even reduce the number of road accidents."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Lincoln. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicola J Gregory, Timothy L Hodgson. Giving subjects the eye and showing them the finger: Socio-biological cues and saccade generation in the anti-saccade task. Perception, 2012; 41 (2): 131 DOI: 10.1068/p7085

Cite This Page:

University of Lincoln. "Pointing a finger work much better than using pointed arrows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502091836.htm>.
University of Lincoln. (2012, May 2). Pointing a finger work much better than using pointed arrows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502091836.htm
University of Lincoln. "Pointing a finger work much better than using pointed arrows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502091836.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins