Humans spontaneously attend to social cues like faces and eyes. However, recent data show that this behavior is significantly weakened when visual content, such as luminance and configuration of internal features, as well as visual context, such as background and facial expression, are controlled. Here, we investigated attentional biasing elicited in response to information presented within appropriate background contexts. Using a dot-probe task, participants were presented with a face–house cue pair, with a person sitting in a room and a house positioned within a picture hanging on a wall. A response target occurred at the previous location of the eyes, mouth, top of the house, or bottom of the house. Experiment 1 measured covert attention by assessing manual responses while participants maintained central fixation. Experiment 2 measured overt attention by assessing eye movements using an eye tracker. The data from both experiments indicated no evidence of spontaneous attentional biasing towards faces or facial features in manual responses; however, an infrequent, though reliable, overt bias towards the eyes of faces emerged. Together, these findings suggest that contextually-based social information does not determine spontaneous social attentional biasing in manual measures, although it may act to facilitate oculomotor behavior.
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