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 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
K.A.D. and E.B. were supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR). A.K. was supported by NSERC, a MSFHR Senior Scholar award, the Human Early Learning Partnership, and the Hampton Foundation. J.J.S.B. was supported by a Canada Research Chair and MSFHR Senior Scholarship. W.F.B. was supported by NSERC. Thank you to G.B. for his time and dedication to this project.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Eyeing the eyes in social scenes: Evidence for top-down control of stimulus selection in simultanagnosia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this