Implying social interaction and its influence on gaze behavior to the eyes.
ABSTRACT: Researchers have increasingly focused on how the potential for social interaction modulates basic processes of visual attention and gaze behavior. In this study, we investigated why people may experience social interaction and what factors contributed to their subjective experience. We furthermore investigated whether implying social interaction modulated gaze behavior to people's faces, specifically the eyes. To imply the potential for interaction, participants received either one of two instructions: 1) they would be presented with a person via a 'live' video-feed, or 2) they would be presented with a pre-recorded video clip of a person. Prior to the presentation, a confederate walked into a separate room to suggest to participants that (s)he was being positioned behind a webcam. In fact, all participants were presented with a pre-recorded clip. During the presentation, we measured participants' gaze behavior with an eye tracker, and after the presentation, participants were asked whether they believed that the confederate was 'live' or not, and, why they thought so. Participants varied greatly in their judgements about whether the confederate was 'live' or not. Analyses of gaze behavior revealed that a large subset of participants who received the live-instruction gazed less at the eyes of confederates compared with participants who received the pre-recorded-instruction. However, for both the live-instruction group and the pre-recorded instruction group, another subset of participants gazed predominantly at the eyes. The current findings may contribute to the development of experimental designs aimed to capture the interactive aspects of social cognition and visual attention.
Project description:When someone is watching you, you may change your behaviour in various ways: this is called the 'audience effect'. Social behaviours such as acting prosocially or changing gaze patterns may be used as signals of reputation and thus may be particularly prone to audience effects. The present paper aims to test the relationship between prosocial choices, gaze patterns and the feeling of being watched within a novel ecologically valid paradigm, where participants communicate with a video-clip of a confederate and believe she is (or is not) a live feed of a confederate who can see them back. Results show that when participants believe they are watched, they tend to make more prosocial choices and they gaze less to the confederate. We also find that the increase in prosocial behaviour when being watched correlates with social anxiety traits. Moreover, we show for the first time that prosocial choices influence subsequent gaze patterns of participants, although this is true for both live and pre-recorded interactions. Overall, these findings suggest that the opportunity to signal a good reputation to other people is a key modulator of prosocial decisions and eye gaze in live communicative contexts. They further indicate that gaze should be considered as an interactive and dynamic signal.
Project description:For effective social interactions with other people, information about the physical environment must be integrated with information about the interaction partner. In order to achieve this, processing of social information is guided by two components: a bottom-up mechanism reflexively triggered by stimulus-related information in the social scene and a top-down mechanism activated by task-related context information. In the present study, we investigated whether these components interact during attentional orienting to gaze direction. In particular, we examined whether the spatial specificity of gaze cueing is modulated by expectations about the reliability of gaze behavior. Expectations were either induced by instruction or could be derived from experience with displayed gaze behavior. Spatially specific cueing effects were observed with highly predictive gaze cues, but also when participants merely believed that actually non-predictive cues were highly predictive. Conversely, cueing effects for the whole gazed-at hemifield were observed with non-predictive gaze cues, and spatially specific cueing effects were attenuated when actually predictive gaze cues were believed to be non-predictive. This pattern indicates that (i) information about cue predictivity gained from sampling gaze behavior across social episodes can be incorporated in the attentional orienting to social cues, and that (ii) beliefs about gaze behavior modulate attentional orienting to gaze direction even when they contradict information available from social episodes.
Project description:In social interaction, gaze behavior provides important signals that have a significant impact on our perception of others. Previous investigations, however, have relied on paradigms in which participants are passive observers of other persons' gazes and do not adjust their gaze behavior as is the case in real-life social encounters. We used an interactive eye-tracking paradigm that allows participants to interact with an anthropomorphic virtual character whose gaze behavior is responsive to where the participant looks on the stimulus screen in real time. The character's gaze reactions were systematically varied along a continuum from a maximal probability of gaze aversion to a maximal probability of gaze-following during brief interactions, thereby varying contingency and congruency of the reactions. We investigated how these variations influenced whether participants believed that the character was controlled by another person (i.e., a confederate) or a computer program. In a series of experiments, the human confederate was either introduced as naïve to the task, cooperative, or competitive. Results demonstrate that the ascription of humanness increases with higher congruency of gaze reactions when participants are interacting with a naïve partner. In contrast, humanness ascription is driven by the degree of contingency irrespective of congruency when the confederate was introduced as cooperative. Conversely, during interaction with a competitive confederate, judgments were neither based on congruency nor on contingency. These results offer important insights into what renders the experience of an interaction truly social: Humans appear to have a default expectation of reciprocation that can be influenced drastically by the presumed disposition of the interactor to either cooperate or compete.
Project description:Humans attend to social cues in order to understand and predict others' behavior. Facial expressions and gaze direction provide valuable information to infer others' mental states and intentions. The present study examined the mechanism of gaze following in the context of participants' expectations about successive action steps of an observed actor. We embedded a gaze-cueing manipulation within an action scenario consisting of a sequence of naturalistic photographs. Gaze-induced orienting of attention (gaze following) was analyzed with respect to whether the gaze behavior of the observed actor was in line or not with the action-related expectations of participants (i.e., whether the actor gazed at an object that was congruent or incongruent with an overarching action goal). In Experiment 1, participants followed the gaze of the observed agent, though the gaze-cueing effect was larger when the actor looked at an action-congruent object relative to an incongruent object. Experiment 2 examined whether the pattern of effects observed in Experiment 1 was due to covert, rather than overt, attentional orienting, by requiring participants to maintain eye fixation throughout the sequence of critical photographs (corroborated by monitoring eye movements). The essential pattern of results of Experiment 1 was replicated, with the gaze-cueing effect being completely eliminated when the observed agent gazed at an action-incongruent object. Thus, our findings show that covert gaze following can be modulated by expectations that humans hold regarding successive steps of the action performed by an observed agent.
Project description:We examined temporal synchronization in joint music performance to determine how social status, auditory feedback, and animacy influence interpersonal coordination. A partner's coordination can be bidirectional (partners adapt to the actions of one another) or unidirectional (one partner adapts). According to the dynamical systems framework, bidirectional coordination should be the optimal (preferred) state during live performance. To test this, 24 skilled pianists each performed with a confederate while their coordination was measured by the asynchrony in their tone onsets. To promote social balance, half of the participants were told the confederate was a fellow participant - an equal social status. To promote social imbalance, the other half was told the confederate was an experimenter - an unequal social status. In all conditions, the confederate's arm and finger movements were occluded from the participant's view to allow manipulation of animacy of the confederate's performances (live or recorded). Unbeknownst to the participants, half of the confederate's performances were replaced with pre-recordings, forcing the participant into unidirectional coordination during performance. The other half of the confederate's performances were live, which permitted bidirectional coordination between performers. In a final manipulation, both performers heard the auditory feedback from one or both of the performers' parts removed at unpredictable times to disrupt their performance. Consistently larger asynchronies were observed in performances of unidirectional (recorded) than bidirectional (live) performances across all conditions. Participants who were told the confederate was an experimenter reported their synchrony as more successful than when the partner was introduced as a fellow participant. Finally, asynchronies increased as auditory feedback was removed; removal of the confederate's part hurt coordination more than removal of the participant's part in live performances. Consistent with the assumption that bidirectional coupling yields optimal coordination, an unresponsive partner requires the other member to do all the adapting for the pair to stay together.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Individuals diagnosed with fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common known inherited form of intellectual disability, commonly exhibit significant impairments in social gaze behavior during interactions with others. Although this behavior can restrict social development and limit educational opportunities, behavioral interventions designed to improve social gaze behavior have not been developed for this population. In this proof of concept (PoC) study, we examined whether administering a behavioral skills training package-discrete trial instruction (DTI) plus relaxation training-could increase social gaze duration in males with FXS. METHODS:As part of a larger clinical trial, 20 boys with FXS, aged 8 to 18 years, were randomized to receive DTI plus relaxation training administered at one of two prescribed doses over a 2-day period at our research center. Potential improvements in social gaze behavior were evaluated by direct observations conducted across trials during the training, and generalization effects were examined by administering a social challenge before and after the treatment. During the social challenge, social gaze behavior was recorded using an eye tracker and physiological arousal levels were simultaneously recorded by monitoring the child's heart rate. RESULTS:Levels of social gaze behavior increased significantly across blocks of training trials for six (60%) boys who received the high-dose behavioral treatment and for three (30%) boys who received the low-dose behavioral treatment. Boys who received the high-dose treatment also showed greater improvements in social gaze behavior during the social challenge compared to boys who received the low-dose treatment. There was no effect of the treatment on physiological arousal levels recorded on the heart rate monitor at either dose. CONCLUSIONS:These results suggest that appropriate social gaze behavior can be successfully taught to boys with FXS using a standardized behavioral skills training approach. Future studies will need to evaluate whether younger children with FXS might benefit from this treatment, and/or whether more naturalistic forms of behavioral skills training might be beneficial, before social gaze avoidance becomes established in the child's repertoire. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02616796 . Registered 30 November 2015.
Project description:The effect of cognitive load on social attention was examined across three experiments in a live pedestrian passing scenario (Experiments 1 and 2) and with the same scenario presented as a video (Experiment 3). In all three experiments, the load was manipulated using an auditory 2-back task. While the participant was wearing a mobile eye-tracker, the participant's fixation behavior toward a confederate was recorded and analyzed based on temporal proximity from the confederate (near or far) and the specific regions of the confederate being observed (i.e., head or body). In Experiment 1 we demonstrated an effect of cognitive load such that there was a lower proportion of fixations and time spent fixating toward the confederate in the load condition. A similar pattern of results was found in Experiment 2 when a within-subject design was used. In Experiment 3, which employed a less authentic social situation (i.e., video), a similar effect of cognitive load was observed. Collectively, these results suggest attentional resources play a central role in social attentional behaviors in both authentic (real-world) and less authentic (video recorded) situations.
Project description:BACKGROUND: From a young age the typical development of social functioning relies upon the allocation of attention to socially relevant information, which in turn allows experience at processing such information and thus enhances social cognition. As such, research has attempted to identify the developmental processes that are derailed in some neuro-developmental disorders that impact upon social functioning. Williams syndrome (WS) and autism are disorders of development that are characterized by atypical yet divergent social phenotypes and atypicalities of attention to people. METHODS: We used eye tracking to explore how individuals with WS and autism attended to, and subsequently interpreted, an actor's eye gaze cue within a social scene. Images were presented for 3 seconds, initially with an instruction simply to look at the picture. The images were then shown again, with the participant asked to identify the object being looked at. Allocation of eye gaze in each condition was analyzed by analysis of variance and accuracy of identification was compared with t tests. RESULTS: Participants with WS allocated more gaze time to face and eyes than their matched controls, both with and without being asked to identify the item being looked at; while participants with autism spent less time on face and eyes in both conditions. When cued to follow gaze, participants with WS increased gaze to the correct targets; those with autism looked more at the face and eyes but did not increase gaze to the correct targets, while continuing to look much more than their controls at implausible targets. Both groups identified fewer objects than their controls. CONCLUSIONS: The atypicalities found are likely to be entwined with the deficits shown in interpreting social cognitive cues from the images. WS and autism are characterized by atypicalities of social attention that impact upon socio-cognitive expertise, but, importantly, the type of atypicality is syndrome specific.
Project description:The ability to understand and predict others' behavior is essential for successful interactions. When making predictions about what other humans will do, we treat them as intentional systems and adopt the intentional stance, i.e., refer to their mental states such as desires and intentions. In the present experiments, we investigated whether the mere belief that the observed agent is an intentional system influences basic social attention mechanisms. We presented pictures of a human and a robot face in a gaze cuing paradigm and manipulated the likelihood of adopting the intentional stance by instruction: in some conditions, participants were told that they were observing a human or a robot, in others, that they were observing a human-like mannequin or a robot whose eyes were controlled by a human. In conditions in which participants were made to believe they were observing human behavior (intentional stance likely) gaze cuing effects were significantly larger as compared to conditions when adopting the intentional stance was less likely. This effect was independent of whether a human or a robot face was presented. Therefore, we conclude that adopting the intentional stance when observing others' behavior fundamentally influences basic mechanisms of social attention. The present results provide striking evidence that high-level cognitive processes, such as beliefs, modulate bottom-up mechanisms of attentional selection in a top-down manner.
Project description:We studied temporal order judgements (TOJs) of gaze shift behaviours and evaluated the impact of gaze direction (direct and averted gaze) and face context information (both eyes set within a single face or each eye within two adjacent hemifaces) on TOJ performance measures. Avatar faces initially gazed leftwards or rightwards (Starting Gaze Direction). This was followed by sequential and independent left and right eye gaze shifts with various amounts of stimulus onset asynchrony. Gaze shifts could be either Matching (both eyes end up pointing direct or averted) or Mismatching (one eye ends up pointing direct, the other averted). Matching shifts revealed an attentional cueing mechanism, where TOJs were biased in favour of the eye lying in the hemispace cued by the avatar's Starting Gaze Direction. For example, the left eye was more likely to be judged as shifting first when the avatar initially gazed toward the left side of the screen. Mismatching shifts showed biased TOJs in favour of the eye performing the averted shift, but only in the context of two separate hemifaces that does not violate expectations of directional gaze shift congruency. This suggests a postdictive inferential strategy that prioritises eye movements based on the type of gaze shift, independently of where attention is initially allocated. Averted shifts are prioritised over direct, as these might signal the presence of behaviourally relevant information in the environment.