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Joshua New, Michelle Levine, Chloe Cheimets; Reading the Lie in the Eyes: The Production and Detection of Tactical Gaze Deception. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):622. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.622.
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Interpreting eye gaze is a critical faculty for social interactions – one important component being that of reflexive gaze following for establishing joint attention. However, because gaze is a typically great signal of intentions, it can also be used to tactically deceive others – allowing for an arms race between the production and detection of deceptive gaze. Using a signal detection design within a spatial cuing task, we evaluated how well participants could 1) produce deceptive directed gazes amongst honest directed gazes, and 2) discriminate between deceptive and honest directed gazes in others. In groups of four, participants were matched with each of the other participants in turn. In each match, participants alternated between two roles. “Viewers” sat in front of two side-by-side monitors and “responders” sat behind the monitors, with an unobstructed view of each other between the monitors. Viewers were instructed (equally and randomly across trials) either to gaze “honestly” at an appearing probe or to gaze “dishonestly” at the monitor opposite the probe. Responders attempted to report which monitor the probe appeared on. In honest trials, both participants were rewarded for correct responses, or penalized for incorrect responses. In dishonest trials, viewers were rewarded for incorrect responses (successful deceptions), and responders penalized. Responders were rewarded for correct responses (detected deceptions), and viewers penalized. As with many types of deception, overall sensitivity for detecting gaze deception was low and responses were very conservative – deceptive gazes were mistaken as honest far more than the reverse. However, the ability to discern deceptive gazes can improve markedly with exposure to an individual, but such improvement did not necessarily carryover to new individuals. There were large individual differences – a small number of participants quickly reached near-perfect performance in discriminating between honest and dishonest gazes whereas others were persistently incapable of doing so.
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