The purpose of the present study was to establish whether the validity effect produced by masked eye gaze cues should be attributed to strictly reflexive mechanisms or to volitional top-down mechanisms. While we find that masked eye gaze cues are effective in producing a validity effect in a central cueing paradigm, we also find that the efficacy of masked gaze cues is sharply constrained by the experimental context. Specifically, masked gaze cues only produced a validity effect when they appeared in the context of unmasked and predictive gaze cues. Unmasked gaze cues, in contrast, produced reliable validity effects across a range of experimental contexts, including Experiment 4 where 80% of the cues were invalid (counter-predictive). Taken together, these results suggest that the effective processing of masked gaze cues requires volitional control, whereas the processing of unmasked (clearly visible) gaze cues appears to benefit from both reflexive and top-down mechanisms.