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Clara Colombatto, Benjamin van Buren, Brian Scholl; 'Mind contact': Might eye-gaze effects actually reflect more general phenomena of perceived attention and intention?. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):60. doi: 10.1167/17.10.60.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Eye gaze is an especially powerful social signal, and direct eye contact has profound effects on us, influencing multiple aspects of attention and memory. Existing work has typically assumed that such phenomena are specific to eye gaze — but might such effects instead reflect more general phenomena of perceived attention and intention (which are, after all, what we so often signify with our eyes)? If so, then such effects might replicate with distinctly non-eyelike stimuli — such as simple geometric shapes that are seen to be pointing in various directions. Here we report a series of experiments of this sort, each testing whether a previously discovered 'eye gaze' effect generalizes to other stimuli. For example, inspired by work showing that faces with direct gaze break into awareness faster, we used continuous flash suppression (CFS) to render invisible a group of geometric 'cone ' shapes that pointed toward or away from the observers, and we measured the time that such stimuli took to break through interocular suppression. Just as with gaze, cones directed at the observer broke into awareness faster than did 'averted' cones that were otherwise equated — and a monocular control experiment ruled out response-based explanations that did not involve visual awareness, per se. In another example, we were inspired by the "stare in the crowd effect", wherein faces with direct eye gaze are detected faster than are faces with averted gaze. We asked whether this same effect occurs when it is cones rather than eyes that are 'staring', and indeed it does: cones directed at the observer were detected more readily (in fields of averted cones) than were cones averted away from the observer (in fields of direct cones). These results collectively suggest that previously observed "eye contact" effects may be better characterized as "mind contact" effects.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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