Next time the person with whom you are conversing appears to lose interest, be careful. The ability to follow his or her gaze direction may keep you safe as it is an important way to detect predators, to recognize important social events nearby, and to anticipate what may happen next. Understanding attention and inattention is a critical component to understanding the mind.
In a recent article published in PLoS ONE, Friederike Range and Zsofi Viranyi at the University of Vienna explains that animals often follow the gaze of other animals not just into the distance, but also around barriers. The researches found this uncommon cognitively advanced task in animals like the wolves, for example. Hand-raised wolves avoided an obstacle in order to check where another animate object (like a person) was looking, an indication that gaze following past barriers is not an advanced skill limited to primates.
The researchers contend that this information may shed light on the evolutionary origins of gaze following, offering new theories about the selective process as it affects attention coordination. The entire article can be viewed HERE.