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Raliza S. Stoyanova, Michael P. Ewbank, Andrew J. Calder; You must be looking at me: the influence of auditory signals on the perception of gaze. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):633. doi: 10.1167/10.7.633.
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The direction of another's eye gaze provides a cue to where they are currently attending (Baron-Cohen, 1995). If that gaze is directed at the observer, it often indicates a deliberate attempt to communicate. However, gaze direction is only one component of a social signal that may include other emotionally salient information in the face or the voice. A recent study from our laboratory has shown that gaze is more likely to be seen as direct in the context of an angry as compared to a fearful or neutral facial expression (Ewbank, Jennings & Calder, in press). This is consistent with the presence of a ‘self-referential bias’ when participants are faced with ambiguously directed gaze in the context of a threatening face. However, it remains unclear whether a self-referential signal in the auditory modality could exert an influence on the perception of gaze. To address this question, we presented neutral faces displaying different degrees of gaze deviation whilst participants heard a name in the unattended auditory channel. Hearing one's own name and seeing direct gaze both capture and hold attention (Moray, 1959; Senju & Hasegawa, 2005). These two ostensive signals have also been shown to activate similar mentalizing regions (Kampe, Frith & Frith, 2003). Given the shared signal value of the two cues, we predicted that participants would evaluate a wider range of gaze deviations as looking directly at them when they simultaneously heard their own name. Our data supported this hypothesis showing, for the first time, that the communicative intent signalled via the auditory modality influences the visual perception of another's gaze.
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