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Clara Colombatto, Yi-Chia Chen, Brian Scholl; Gaze cueing is tuned to extract the mind behind the gaze: Investigations of 'gaze deflection'. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):197. doi: 10.1167/18.10.197.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The most salient 'social' visual stimuli we encounter are faces, and perhaps the most informative features of faces are eyes. Indeed, other people's eyes seem to be particularly meaningful to us, and perceived gaze can rapidly and automatically cause shifts of attention, as in the phenomenon of gaze cueing. But why is eye gaze so important? Presumably, gaze is meaningful not because of what it reveals about another person's eyes, but rather what it reveals about the mind behind the gaze — e.g. about what someone is attending to, or is intending to do. When you turn to look at something, however, it is not always because you are attending to it. Consider, for example, the familiar but unexplored phenomenon of 'gaze deflection' — when you are surreptitiously looking at someone and then suddenly look away when they catch you staring. In these cases, the 'deflected' gaze is not directed at anything in particular, but is only directed away from something (or someone) else. Do such 'deflected' gazes still orient other people's attention? To find out, we had subjects view videos of a person turning her head to look in a specific direction either to attend in that direction (Intentional gazes) or because she had just gotten caught staring at someone else and was looking away from that person (Deflected gazes). Gaze cueing (measured by the ability to identify a briefly flashed letter in the direction of a gaze) was stronger for Intentional gazes than for otherwise equivalent Deflected gazes — and this difference disappeared in control videos in which gaze did not appear to be 'deflected', even while controlling for other low-level visual properties. This shows how the process of gaze cueing is especially sophisticated — insofar as it is well-tuned to extract the 'mind' behind the gaze.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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