General and specific effects of meditation on gaze cueing of attention

Poster Presentation: Sunday, May 19, 2024, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Attention: Spatial selection 2

Maria Falikman1 (), Samuel Kearley1, Robert Strickland1, Oleksii Pidlypenets1; 1The University of The South

Different types of meditation have been demonstrated to selectively modulate performance on different visual attention tasks. To our knowledge, there have been no studies of the effects of meditation on the gaze cueing of attention, or orienting one's visual attention to the direction of another person's gaze (Friesen, Kingstone, 1998). We assumed that spatial gaze cueing might be sensitive to the so-called ‘loving-kindness meditation’ (LKM), which is known to increase social connectedness (Hutcherson et al., 2008). More specifically, our hypothesis was that LKM would increase the gaze cueing effect in human observers. In our experiment, two groups of participants performed a speeded peripheral target detection following a valid, invalid, or neutral gaze cue from a cartoon-like face in the center of the display. The experiment was divided into two sessions, 128 trials each, separated by a pre-recorded ten-minutes LKM in the experimental group and a ten-minutes recording of a short story in the control group. Response times to the peripheral target were analyzed. For all conditions, we obtained a robust gaze cueing effect, which did not differ significantly between groups before the intervention. Contrary to our expectations, the interaction between the condition, session, and cue type for absolute RTs was not significant. However, the analysis of RT costs and benefits before and after the intervention revealed that LKM led to a significant 14 ms increase in the valid-cue benefit with no effect on the invalid-cue cost, whereas listening to a story did not have any effect either on costs or on benefits, in line with our hypothesis. Besides, for the experimental but not for the control group, we observed a significant training effect across all cue types, with shorter RTs after the meditation. Our results imply that LKM might have both general and specific effects on gaze cueing of attention.