My eyes want to look where your eyes are looking: exploring the tendency to imitate another individual's gaze.
ABSTRACT In this study we investigated the tendency of humans to imitate the gaze direction of other individuals. Distracting gaze stimuli or non biological directional cues (arrows) were presented to observers performing an instructed saccadic eye movement task. Eye movement recordings showed that observers performed less accurately when the distracting gaze and the instructed saccade had opposite directions, with a substantial number of saccades matching the direction of the distracting gaze. Static (Experiment 1) and dynamic (Experiment 2) gaze distracters, but not pointing arrows (Experiment 3), produced the effect. Results show a strong predisposition of humans to imitate somebody else's oculomotor behaviour, even when detrimental to task performance. This is likely linked to a strong tendency to share attentional states of other individuals, known as joint attention.
Article: In the eye of the beholder: reduced threat-bias and increased gaze-imitation towards reward in relation to trait anger.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The gaze of a fearful face silently signals a potential threat's location, while the happy-gaze communicates the location of impending reward. Imitating such gaze-shifts is an automatic form of social interaction that promotes survival of individual and group. Evidence from gaze-cueing studies suggests that covert allocation of attention to another individual's gaze-direction is facilitated when threat is communicated and further enhanced by trait anxiety. We used novel eye-tracking techniques to assess whether dynamic fearful and happy facial expressions actually facilitate automatic gaze-imitation. We show that this actual gaze-imitation effect is stronger when threat is signaled, but not further enhanced by trait anxiety. Instead, trait anger predicts facilitated gaze-imitation to reward, and to reward compared to threat. These results agree with an increasing body of evidence on trait anger sensitivity to reward.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(2):e31373. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Studies in human and non-human primates indicate that basic socio-cognitive operations are inherently linked to the power of gaze in capturing reflexively the attention of an observer. Although monkey studies indicate that the automatic tendency to follow the gaze of a conspecific is modulated by the leader-follower social status, evidence for such effects in humans is meager. Here, we used a gaze following paradigm where the directional gaze of right- or left-wing Italian political characters could influence the oculomotor behavior of ingroup or outgroup voters. We show that the gaze of Berlusconi, the right-wing leader currently dominating the Italian political landscape, potentiates and inhibits gaze following behavior in ingroup and outgroup voters, respectively. Importantly, the higher the perceived similarity in personality traits between voters and Berlusconi, the stronger the gaze interference effect. Thus, higher-order social variables such as political leadership and affiliation prepotently affect reflexive shifts of attention.PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(9):e25117. · 4.09 Impact Factor