“Giving people the finger” is how I would headline:
In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Perception, researchers at the universities of Exeter and Lincoln showed that biological cues like an outstretched index finger or a pair of eyes looking to one side affect people’s attention even when they are irrelevant to the task at hand. Abstract directional symbols like pointed arrows or the written words “left” and “right” do not have the same effect. Pointing a Finger Work Much Better Than Using Pointed Arrows
I don’t have access to the article but the post reports:
“Interestingly, it was only the cues which were biological — the eye gaze and finger pointing cues — which had this effect,” said Prof. Hodgson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln. “Road sign arrows and words “left” and “right” had no influence at all. What’s more, the eyes and fingers seemed to affect the participants’ reaction times even when the images were flashed on the screen for only a tenth of a second.”
The authors suggest that the reason that these biological signals may be particularly good at directing attention is because they are used by humans and some other species as forms of non-verbal communication: Where someone is looking or pointing indicates to others not only what they are paying attention to, but also what they might be feeling or what they might be planning on doing next.
I think the commonly quoted figure for the origins of language/symbol manipulation is about 100,000 years ago. Use of biological clues, pointing, eye movement, is far older. That’s off the top of my head so feel free to throw in citations (for or against).
There would be a learning curve in collaboration to use this for UIs. The abstract in question reads:
Pointing with the eyes or the finger occurs frequently in social interaction to indicate direction of attention and one’s intentions. Research with a voluntary saccade task (where saccade direction is instructed by the colour of a fixation point) suggested that gaze cues automatically activate the oculomotor system, but non-biological cues, like arrows, do not. However, other work has failed to support the claim that gaze cues are special. In the current research we introduced biological and non-biological cues into the anti-saccade task, using a range of stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). The anti-saccade task recruits both top – down and bottom – up attentional mechanisms, as occurs in naturalistic saccadic behaviour. In experiment 1 gaze, but not arrows, facilitated saccadic reaction times (SRTs) in the opposite direction to the cues over all SOAs, whereas in experiment 2 directional word cues had no effect on saccades. In experiment 3 finger pointing cues caused reduced SRTs in the opposite direction to the cues at short SOAs. These findings suggest that biological cues automatically recruit the oculomotor system whereas non-biological cues do not. Furthermore, the anti-saccade task set appears to facilitate saccadic responses in the opposite direction to the cues. Giving subjects the eye and showing them the finger: Socio-biological cues and saccade generation in the anti-saccade task