Cognitive demands of face monitoring: Evidence for visuospatial overload

Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, L. Bonner, Vicki Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Young children perform difficult communication tasks better face to face than when they cannot see one another (e.g., Doherty-Sneddon & Kent, 1996). However, in recent studies, it was found that children aged 6 and 10 years, describing abstract shapes, showed evidence of face-to-face interference rather than facilitation. For some communication tasks, access to visual signals (such as facial expression and eye gaze) may hinder rather than help children’s communication. In new research we have pursued this interference effect. Five studies are described with adults and 10- and 6-year-old participants. It was found that looking at a face interfered with children’s abilities to listen to descriptions of abstract shapes. Children also performed visuospatial memory tasks worse when they looked at someone’s face prior to responding than when they looked at a visuospatial pattern or at the floor. It was concluded that performance on certain tasks was hindered by monitoring another person’s face. It is suggested that processing of visual communication signals shares certain processing resources with the processing of other visuospatial information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-919
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001


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