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Jack M. Loomis, Jonathan W. Kelly, Andrew C. Beall, Jeremy N. Bailenson; Sensing eye gaze with eccentric viewing. Journal of Vision 2004;4(8):912. doi: 10.1167/4.8.912.
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The social dynamics of communication through eye gaze reflect the psychophysics of eye gaze and head direction sensing and our implicit knowledge of this psychophysics. For example, people communicate surreptitiously with eye glances while being careful not to move their heads. Earlier work by Pusch and Loomis (VSS, 2001) showed that observers are able to judge the head directions of others when viewing them with far peripheral vision (out to 90° eccentricity). Here we report complementary research dealing with the sensing of eye direction during eccentric viewing. In this experiment, 4 lookers (2 male and 2 female) were photographed looking at different targets along a horizontal rail. Looking direction varied from −30 to 30°. Each of 8 subjects monocularly viewed these photographs on a video monitor that was positioned directly opposite the subject either 84 cm or 300 cm distant. Between the looker and subject was a horizontal rail labeled with numbers. Subjects viewed the photographs of the lookers for 250 ms and then judged which of the number labels was aligned with the looker's gaze. As a within-subjects factor, we manipulated the retinal eccentricity of the looker's face (from 0° to 16°). Sensing of eye gaze was measured by the slope of the regression line relating judged looking direction to actual looking direction. The sensing of eye gaze degrades to about half maximum at 3° eccentricity for the 300 cm distance and at 8° for the 84 cm distance. Clearly, the sensing of eye gaze in eccentric viewing is many times worse than the sensing of head direction.
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