October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
Are you attending to me? The effect of social presence on social attention
Author Affiliations
  • Dana A. Hayward
    University of Alberta
  • Jingru Ha
    University of Alberta
  • Raman Dhaliwal
    University of Alberta
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 1218. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1218
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      Dana A. Hayward, Jingru Ha, Raman Dhaliwal; Are you attending to me? The effect of social presence on social attention. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1218. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1218.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Prior research has demonstrated that the presence of another person can modulate attention. For example, when participants are asked to complete a task in pairs, not only do participants show slower responses when they respond for the second time to the same target location (known as inhibition of return - IOR), but they also show slower responses to a target location that their partner just responded to. This so-called ‘social inhibition of return’ suggests that, at some level, we attend to the behaviours of another, which in turn modulates our responses. However, we wanted to know whether the allocation of attention towards a partner would change if, instead of attending to simple peripheral abrupt onsets, the pairs attended to a social gaze cue. Further, prior work has not manipulated the extent to which partners know each other before completing the task. Thus, in the current study we used a typical gaze cueing task, whereby pairs of participants saw faces looking left or right, and each participant was assigned to respond to either a target “T” or an “L” as soon as it appeared in the periphery. Familiarity was manipulated through asking participants to either complete a short semi-scripted conversation before beginning the computer task (Acquaintances; n=54) or afterwards (Strangers; n=52). Repeated-measures ANOVAs revealed different patterns of attention across the two groups. The Acquaintance group revealed an effect of previous responder, with robust social attention only when responding after oneself. In contrast, the Stranger group revealed a 3-way interaction; inhibition occurred during opposite-responder trials to the same spatial location, and facilitation was strongest during same-responder trials to the opposite spatial location. Together, our results indicate that social attention can be modulated based on a partner’s response, and furthermore that partner familiarity plays an important role in this attentional modulation.


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