Why are you looking at me? It’s because I’m talking, but mostly because I’m staring or not doing much

Scott, Hannah; Batton, Jonathan P. and Kuhn, Gustav. 2019. Why are you looking at me? It’s because I’m talking, but mostly because I’m staring or not doing much. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 81(1), pp. 109-118. ISSN 1943-3921 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Our attention is particularly driven toward faces, especially the eyes, and there is much debate over the factors that modulate this social attentional orienting. Most of the previous research has presented faces in isolation, and we tried to address this shortcoming by measuring people’s eye movements whilst they observe more naturalistic, and varied social interactions. Participants’ eye movements were monitored whilst they watched three different types of social interactions (monologue, manual activity, active attentional misdirection), which were either accompanied by the corresponding audio as speech, or in silence. Our results showed that 1) participants spent more time looking at the face when the person was giving a monologue, than when he/she was carrying out manual activities, and in the latter case they spent more time fixating the person’s hands. 2) Hearing speech significantly increases the amount of time participants spent looking at the face (this effect was relatively small), although this was not accounted for by any increase in mouth oriented gaze. 3) Participants spent significantly more time fixating on the face when direct eye contact was established and this drive to establish eye contact was significantly stronger in the manual activities than during the monologue. These results highlight people’s strategic top-down control over when they attend to faces and the eyes, and support the view that we use our eyes to signal non-verbal information.

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Attention, Eye movements, Social cognition, Social attention, Audio visual interaction, Speech perception, Direct eye gaze

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10 August 2018Accepted
23 October 2018Published Online
January 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2018 12:04

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2021 06:49

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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