When people see a bright flash or light or hear a sudden loud noise, they orient their attention to it even before they identify what is is. This orienting reflex seems to be present from birth. It is adaptive in helping people react quickly to events that call for immediate action.
This reflex can be controlled by the cortex, but more typically it is controlled by subcortical brain regions.
The "Orienting response" was noted in the 2007 book "The Assault on Reason" by former Vice President Al Gore. Gore relates to us how television is closely linked to the "orienting response" which is related closely to vicarious traumatization.
The effect of stimulus omission and interstimulus interval (ISI) on electrodermal habituation at short ISIs.
Aug 01, 1998; The precision with which people encode and store the temporal relationships between stimuli is an area of experimental psychology...
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center Provide Details of New Studies and Findings in the Area of Central Nervous System.(Report)
Mar 14, 2012; Research findings, "The brain's orienting response (novelty P3) in patients with unilateral temporal lobe resections," are...