Battich, L., Fairhurst, M., & Deroy, O. (2020). Coordinating attention requires coordinated senses. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

There is more to joint attention than meets the eye!

Playing tennis, singing together, ordering a cake: we effortlessly coordinate each other’s attention towards a common focus in rich multisensory ways. Here we show in detail how the combination of multiple senses not only facilitates visual coordination, but is even necessary to certain uses of joint attention.

We distinguish two ways in which non-visual senses contribute to joint attention: (1) they facilitate the coordination of visual attention and target detection through spatial and temporal; (2) they are necessary to extend social coordination to non-visual targets and amodal properties of objects and events in the world.

A multisensory approach to joint attention bridges the fields of social attention and cognition (which remains mainly focused on vision) and crossmodal and multisensory attention (which remains focused on the individual) and highlights directions for future experimental research in both areas. Taking into account the role of different sensory modalities during joint attention has also potential implications for social robotics, clinical diagnostics and theoretical debates on shared objectivity.