The face of fear: Effects of eye gaze and emotion on visual attention.
Mathews A., Fox E., Yiend J., Calder A.
We investigated whether a fearful expression enhances the effect of another's gaze in directing the attention of an observer. Participants viewed photographs of faces whose gaze was directed ahead, to the left or to the right. Target letters then appeared unpredictably to the left or right. As expected, targets in the location indicated by gaze were detected more rapidly. In nonanxious volunteers the effects of fearful gaze did not differ from neutral gaze, but fearful expression had a more powerful influence in a selected high anxious group. Attention is thus more likely to be guided by the direction of fearful than neutral gaze, but only in anxiety-prone individuals.