Eye Gaze

 

eye
For obtaining information about another person during social interactions, we tend to focus on the face and in particular the eyes of our interaction partner. We do so because the eyes of others communicate subtle but crucial signals about their intentions and goals.

 

Through a collaboration with Nicolas Burra from the University of Geneva, I have recently had the opportunity to start investigating how social information is conveyed by means of eye gaze, and what influence inter-individual differences have on eye gaze processing. In so doing, we have mainly concentrated on a particular effect during visual search called the “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect.

The “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect has first been described in 1995 by  von Grünau and Anston. In a paradigm where participants were asked to either detect a straight gaze target among averted gaze distractors or an averted gaze target among straight gaze distractors, there was an overall faster detection of straight gaze (versus averted gaze) targets. In a subsequent study by Conty et al. (2006), the additional factor head orientation (frontal versus deviated) was introduced. In so doing, the “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect was found to also depend on head orientation because it was present by means of an eye gaze by head orientation interaction (slowest detection and highest error rate for averted eye gaze targets on a deviated head). 

The following projects are under way:
1) The “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect and personality – a behavioral study
2) The “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect and personality – an EEG study

Please see for more details below.

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1) The “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect and personality – a behavioral study

In the first beharioral study, N= 51 young healthy adults were presented with a visual search task aiming at eliciting the “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect by means of an eye gaze by head orientation interaction, and inter-individual differences in personality were assessed particularly related to three different kinds of anxiety: trait anxiety, social anxiety, and attachment anxiety. The aim was to reproduce the “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect by means of an eye gaze by head orientation interaction reported by Conty et al. (2006), and to reveal differential influences of anxiety on the latter. 

The corresponding paper is written up and currently under review.

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2) The “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect and personality – an EEG study

Behavioral and EEG data has been acquired in over 40 participants again during a visual search task aiming at eliciting the “Stare-in-the-Crowd” effect by means of an eye gaze by head orientation interaction, and questionnaires capturing inter-individual differences in personality were administered as well. 

Data analysis is currently under way.

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