Eyeing the eyes in social scenes: Evidence for top-down control of stimulus selection in simultanagnosia

Kirsten A. Dalrymple, Alexander K. Gray, Brielle L. Perler, Elina Birmingham, Walter F. Bischof, Jason J.S. Barton, Alan Kingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Simultanagnosia is a disorder of visual attention resulting from bilateral parieto-occipital lesions. Healthy individuals look at eyes to infer people's attentional states, but simultanagnosics allocate abnormally few fixations to eyes in scenes. It is unclear why simultanagnosics fail to fixate eyes, but it might reflect that they are (a) unable to locate and fixate them, or (b) do not prioritize attentional states. We compared eye movements of simultanagnosic G.B. to those of healthy subjects viewing scenes normally or through a restricted window of vision. They described scenes and explicitly inferred attentional states of people in scenes. G.B. and subjects viewing scenes through a restricted window made few fixations on eyes when describing scenes, yet increased fixations on eyes when inferring attention. Thus G.B. understands that eyes are important for inferring attentional states and can exert top-down control to seek out and process the gaze of others when attentional states are of interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-40
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Eye gaze
  • Neuropsychology
  • Simultanagnosia
  • Social scenes perception

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