August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Making eye contact without awareness
Author Affiliations
  • Apoorva Rajiv Madipakkam
    Visual Perception Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Marcus Rothkirch
    Visual Perception Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Erik Rehn
    Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin, Germany
  • Philipp Sterzer
    Visual Perception Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 209. doi:10.1167/14.10.209
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      Apoorva Rajiv Madipakkam, Marcus Rothkirch, Erik Rehn, Philipp Sterzer; Making eye contact without awareness . Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):209. doi: 10.1167/14.10.209.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Gaze direction is an important social cue that gives us a wealth of information about others' intentions and focus of attention. Evidence suggests that faces with direct gaze capture attention and receive prioritized visual processing even outside conscious awareness (Stein, Senju, Peelen, & Sterzer, 2011; Chen & Yeh, 2012). However, the behavioural effects of this preferential processing of direct gaze outside of awareness are unknown. To address this question, we rendered faces with direct and averted gaze invisible using interocular suppression. Participants’ awareness was assessed based on objective criteria with a 2-alternative forced choice (2-AFC) task. We recorded eye movements to investigate whether humans have a preference for establishing mutual eye contact with faces that are fully suppressed from awareness. This provided us with a direct measure of their behavioural responses during the unconscious processing of the stimuli. We found that saccades were preferentially guided towards faces with direct eye gaze compared to faces with averted gaze even though the faces were invisible. This oculomotor preference suggests that a rapid and automatic establishment of mutual eye contact constitutes a biological advantage, which could be mediated by fast subcortical pathways in the human brain.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014

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