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Jennifer Haensel, Tim Smith, Atsushi Senju; Cultural differences in face scanning during live face-to-face interactions using head-mounted eye-tracking. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):835. doi: 10.1167/17.10.835.
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Eye-tracking studies have demonstrated cultural differences in face scanning strategies, with Western Caucasians (WC) showing triangular scanning patterns (eyes and mouth) and Eastern Asians (EA) exhibiting central fixations (Blais et al., 2008). However, as previous studies have been restricted to screen-based paradigms, it is unclear whether findings generalise to naturalistic settings. The present study used head-mounted eye-tracking to examine cultural differences in face scanning during live dyadic interactions, separated into periods of speaking and listening. Twenty EA and 20 WC dyads introduced themselves and played a story-telling task. We developed semi-automatic tools that dynamically track regions of interest (ROI; upper/lower face) and classify gaze points accordingly. Results revealed that both groups showed significantly more face gaze when listening than when speaking. Cultural differences were observed during speaking, with increased face gaze at the listening partner in EA compared to WC participants. Contrary to predictions, no group differences were found for duration of upper gaze scanning, or duration and frequency of mutual gaze, questioning the notion of gaze avoidance in EA observers (Argyle et al., 1986). We also employed a data-driven approach whereby face regions and gaze points are mapped into a normalised space to generate difference maps of gaze density. Initial results revealed that EA observers, relative to WC participants, showed more central gaze (between the eyes). WC observers, meanwhile, showed greater left-side bias and gazed more at the eyes and nose when listening, and the left eye and mouth when speaking. Forthcoming spatial density analysis will statistically examine cultural differences in gaze distribution. Overall, these findings indicate greater gaze distribution in WC participants and more localised eye scanning in EA observers. This replicates screen-based studies using emotionally expressive faces (Jack et al., 2009; Senju et al., 2013) and demonstrates cultural differences in naturalistic face scanning for the first time.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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