August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
How we can use the eyes to understand human interaction
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Wee Kiat Lau
    Ulm University
  • Marian Sauter
    Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Lisa Valentina Eberhardt
    Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Anke Huckauf
    Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This research was funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), grant number 425867974” and is part of the “Priority Program SPP2199 Scalable Interaction Paradigms for Pervasive Computing Environments”
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5410. doi:
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      Wee Kiat Lau, Marian Sauter, Lisa Valentina Eberhardt, Anke Huckauf; How we can use the eyes to understand human interaction. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5410.

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

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The eyes communicate emotions, social signals, and information about a person. Here, we conducted three studies using human eye images as stimuli to investigate the way eyes affect how we respond to them. We first investigated pupil sizes and vergence on inferring other people’s characteristics in neutral expression eyes. Pupil sizes were manipulated using black disks to create small, medium, or large sizes. We show that the pupils can affect how characteristics of another person are perceived and may act as important social signals in subconscious social interaction processes. In the second study, we tested how images of multiple eyes influenced the sense of privacy. Participants answered questions varying in sensitivity regarding private affairs, either with eyes oriented towards the question, or towards the user, or without eyes. We found that less information was shared when the eyes oriented towards the question, but only when participants did not feel observed by the eyes. This indicates that subtly conveying a sense of public audience may shape privacy behaviors. For the third study, we presented eyes with different emotions, age, and sex, and examined whether these watching eyes affected the extent to utter stereotypical statements. Participants saw a random list of stereotypical statements and rated how much they would say each of the statements. Results revealed that angry old male and young happy eyes increased the extent to utter stereotypical statements, whereas fearful eyes decreased the extent. Taken together, these studies show that various eye images can be used to influence responses in specific ways.


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