Arrow signs are often used in crowded environments such as airports to direct observers' attention to objects and areas of interest. Research with social and symbolic cues presented in isolation at fixation has suggested that social cues (such as eye gaze and pointing hands) are more effective in directing observers' attention than symbolic cues. The present work examines whether in visual search, social cues would therefore be more effective than arrows, by asking participants to locate target objects in crowded displays that were cued by eye-gaze, pointing hands or arrow cues. Results show an advantage for arrow cues, but only for arrow cues that stand out from the surroundings. The results confirm earlier suggestions that in extrafoveal vision cue shape trumps biological relevance. Eye movements suggest that these cueing effects rely predominantly on extrafoveal perception of the cues.
Hermens, F. (2017). The effects of social and symbolic cues on visual search: Cue shape trumps biological relevance. Psihologija, 50(2), 117–140. https://doi.org/10.2298/PSI161005003H