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A direct link between gaze perception and social attention
Andrew P. Bayliss, Clarie. K Naughtin, Jessica Bartlett and Ada Kritikos,
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance

This study investigated the link between two important mechanisms involved in social cognition. The first is our ability to discriminate where other people are looking, and the second is to automatically orient our attention to that location. How information is exchanged between the two systems responsible for gaze perception and social orienting is unclear. One explanation is that the ‘gaze cueing’ effect may be derived from the activation of a general-purpose attentional mechanism that is ignorant of the social nature of the cue. Alternatively, gaze following may emerge as a direct consequence of cognitive mechanisms specifically dedicated to gaze perception. This second notion is the dominant assumption in the literature as it is more intuitive than the first, but there is little direct support for this account. Here, we systematically manipulated observers’ perception of gaze direction by implementing a gaze adaptation paradigm. This approach has been previously shown to bias gaze perception independently from general spatial representations. Gaze cueing was reduced only in conditions where perception of specific averted gaze stimuli was impaired (Experiment 1b). A final experiment showed that adaptation to a pointing stimulus failed to impact gaze cueing. Overall, these data suggest a direct link between the specific operation of gaze perception mechanisms and the consequential orienting of attention

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Created: Monday, 14th February 2011 by paulj
Modified: Monday, 7th March 2011 by paulj
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