The haptic cuing of visual spatial attention: Evidence of a spotlight effect

Hong Z. Tan, Robert Gray, Charles Spence, Chanon M. Jones, Roslizawaty Mohd Rosli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

5 Scopus citations


This article provides an overview of an ongoing program of research designed to investigate the effectiveness of haptic cuing to redirect a user's visual spatial attention under various conditions using a visual change detection paradigm. Participants visually inspected displays consisting of rectangular horizontal and vertical elements in order to try and detect an orientation change in one of the elements. Prior to performing the visual task on each trial, the participants were tapped on the back from one of four locations by a vibrotactile stimulator. The validity of the haptic cues (i.e., the probability that the tactor location coincided with the quadrant where the visual target occurred) was varied. Response time was recorded and eye-position monitored with an eyetracker. Under conditions where the validity of the haptic cue was high (i.e., when the cue predicted the likely target quadrant), initial saccades predominantly went to the cued quadrant and response times were significantly faster as compared to the baseline condition where no haptic cuing was provided. When the cue validity was low (i.e., when the cue provided no information with regard to the quadrant in which the visual target might occur), however, the participants were able to ignore haptic cuing as instructed. Furthermore, a spotlight effect was observed in that the response time increased as the visual target moved away from the center of the cued quadrant. These results have implications for the designers of multimodal (or multisensory) interfaces where a user can benefit from haptic attentional cues in order to detect and/or process the information from a small region within a large and complex visual display.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2009
EventHuman Vision and Electronic Imaging XIV - San Jose, CA, United States
Duration: Jan 19 2009Jan 22 2009


OtherHuman Vision and Electronic Imaging XIV
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose, CA


  • Cue validity
  • Eye-gaze
  • Haptic cuing
  • Spotlight of attention
  • Visual spatial attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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