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Gaze aversion: A response to cognitive or social difficulty?



When asked questions, adults and children often avert their gaze at certain points within the interaction, especially when questions are difficult (Doherty-Sneddon, Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, & Doyle, 2002; Glenberg, Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998). Gaze aversion may be a way of managing the cognitive load associated with the processing of visual environmental information, or it may serve to alleviate a negative social-emotional experience, such as the self-consciousness associated with, for example, a fear of failure. In the present study, thirty-six 8-year-olds were questioned either face to face or across a live video link. Questions varied in type (arithmetic, verbal reasoning, and autobiographical and episodic memory) and in difficulty. Children averted their gaze more during face-to-face questioning than during video-mediated questioning; however, question difficulty had a very strong influence on aversion in both interview conditions. It is concluded that although social factors play a role in children's gaze aversion during pedagogical question-answer sequences, the primary function of averting gaze is to manage the cognitive load involved in the processing of environmental information.
Memory & Cognition
2005, 33 (4), 727-733
During difficult cognitive activity—for example, re-
membering information, thinking of an answer to a ques-
tion, planning what we are going to say, or speaking—we
often close our eyes, look up at the sky, or look away from
the person we are in conversation with (Doherty-Sneddon,
Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, & Doyle, 2002; Glenberg,
Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998). A number of studies
have reported ways in which adults switch off from en-
vironmental stimulation (both live faces and other sorts
of visual displays) in order to concentrate on cognitive
tasks (e.g., Beattie, 1981; Glenberg et al., 1998). Our own
work has shown that older children (8-year-olds) also
look away more when answering difficult questions, as
compared with easy ones, when questioned face to face
(FTF; Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002; Phelps, Doherty-
Sneddon, & Warnock, in press). Gaze aversion is, there-
fore, potentially a useful cue during pedagogical interac-
tions, since it gives a nonverbal indication of a child’s
level of understanding and concentration (see Doherty-
Sneddon et al., 2002). This article reports a study of gaze
aversion by 8-year-olds when they were asked questions
of increasing difficulty. The children were questioned by
the same interviewer either across a live video link (LVL)
or FTF, to ascertain what underlies our tendency to avert
our gaze when we need to concentrate.
Considerable research effort has been expended on ex-
amining the role played by visual communication signals
(e.g., eye gaze, gestures, and facial expressions) in human
interaction. There is much evidence that these cues are
often important sources of information, and many re-
searchers have proposed that they play a facilitatory role
in human communication (e.g., Clark & Brennan, 1991;
Goldin-Meadow, Wein, & Chang, 1992; McNeill, 1985).
However, the fact that such signals are informative means
that they carry a cognitive load. The processing costs of
visual signals have been documented. Excessive eye gaze
between speakers is associated with increased cognitive
load, evidenced by, for example, less fluent speech (Beat-
tie, 1981). In addition, the cognitive difficulty of a task
relates to the likelihood that people will avert their gaze
from other people’s faces (Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002;
Ellyson, Dovidio, & Corson, 1981; Glenberg et al., 1998;
Phelps et al., in press). So one explanation of the link be-
tween cognitive difficulty and gaze aversion is that the
interlocutor’s face, an information-rich aspect of the en-
vironment, requires cognitive resources to monitor (Glen-
berg, 1997; Glenberg et al., 1998). When people avert their
gaze, they can deploy additional cognitive resources to
the task at hand and, hence, improve their performance—
the cognitive load hypothesis (cf. Glenberg, 1997).
In addition to the cognitive influences on gaze behav-
ior, social psychologists have drawn attention to the social
constraints on gaze in conversation. Gaze serves a num-
ber of social functions, including being a signal of inti-
macy, dominance, and social competence (e.g., Argyle,
1996; Argyle & Dean, 1965; Burgoon, Manusov, Mineo,
& Hale, 1985). Argyle suggests that gaze indicates inti-
macy, and levels must be negotiated to maintain a suitable
equilibrium in conversation. For example, when speakers
are physically close, this leads to a higher level of inti-
macy that is compensated for by gaze being averted from
727 Copyright 2005 Psychonomic Society, Inc.
This work was supported by ESRC Grant R000239930, held by G.D.-S.
We thank the children who participated in this research and their teach-
ers and parents for their cooperation and consent. Correspondence re-
garding this article should be addressed to G. Doherty-Sneddon, De-
partment of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA,
Scotland (e-mail:
Gaze aversion: A response to cognitive
or social difficulty?
University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland
When asked questions, adults and children often avert their gaze at certain points within the inter-
action, especially when questions are difficult (Doherty-Sneddon, Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, &
Doyle, 2002; Glenberg, Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998). Gaze aversion may be a way of managing the
cognitive load associated with the processing of visual environmental information, or it may serve to
alleviate a negative social-emotional experience, such as the self-consciousness associated with, for ex-
ample, a fear of failure. In the present study, thirty-six 8-year-olds were questioned either face to face
or across a live video link. Questions varied in type (arithmetic, verbal reasoning, and autobiographi-
cal and episodic memory) and in difficulty. Children averted their gaze more during face-to-face ques-
tioning than during video-mediated questioning; however, question difficulty had a very strong influ-
ence on aversion in both interview conditions. It is concluded that although social factors play a role
in children’s gaze aversion during pedagogical question–answer sequences, the primary function of
averting gaze is to manage the cognitive load involved in the processing of environmental information.
an interlocutor’s face. Question topic also influences in-
timacy distance. Exline, Gray, and Schuette (1965) found
that people engaged in less eye contact when asked em-
barrassing questions than when asked innocuous ques-
tions. Therefore, if a question is difficult or personally
salient, this may increase self-consciousness or embar-
rassment, thereby leading to increased gaze aversion to
compensate for this. Similarly, Stanley and Martin (1968)
proposed that eye contact is associated with an increase
in anxiety and that gaze aversion plays a role in anxiety
reduction. Part of the load associated with looking at
faces, especially when difficult questions are answered,
may, therefore, be associated with self-consciousness. It
is, therefore, important to understand the relative impact
of social and cognitive influences on gaze aversion, since
one set of reasons why children avert their gaze during
difficult questioning may be because they feel embar-
rassed or self-conscious and want to avoid looking at the
questioner. The question addressed by the present article
is not whether gaze aversion per se is influenced by so-
cial or cognitive factors, since both clearly contribute to
patterns of gaze. The key issue is whether the increase in
aversion associated with increasing difficulty of ques-
tions is driven primarily by a need to reduce environ-
mental stimulation, especially visual stimulation from
the face (faces are a particularly salient type of visual
form; Russell & Lavie, 2001), or to alleviate the self-
consciousness that may accompany being “put on the
spot” by difficult questioning.
The study of gaze aversion has important practical ap-
plications. For example, Vrij (2002) cited gaze aversion
as a nervous behavior commonly believed to be associ-
ated with deception. He proposed that people who are in-
tentionally trying to deceive others often feel nervous
about being found out and will also have to “think hard”
in order to make their lies convincing. In addition, he
predicted that younger children are likely to exhibit more
signs of hard thinking and nervousness (including more
gaze aversion) while lying—in part, because they are
less able to control their behavior. However, a number of
studies have clearly shown that gaze aversion is not a re-
liable cue to deception (e.g., Zuckerman & Driver, 1985).
Recent work in which gaze aversion in children has been
investigated has shown that young children (5 years and
younger) were inconsistent in their use of gaze aversion
as a response to cognitive difficulty and often, for ex-
ample, “stared the adult out” when they experienced dif-
ficulties (Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002). Understanding
gaze aversion is, therefore, crucial in order to success-
fully inform applications of knowledge.
Glenberg et al. (1998) have reported that adults avert
their gaze when answering difficult questions even when
these are presented on a computer screen, suggesting
that gaze aversion functions to reduce environmental
stimulation per se, rather than to reduce social factors,
such as feeling embarrassed. In the present study, we ma-
nipulate social factors by comparing FTF questioning
with video-mediated questioning. Evidence that video-
mediated communication (VMC) has important social ef-
fects on users comes from research by Doherty-Sneddon
and colleagues. She investigated how children of differ-
ent ages use verbal and nonverbal signals in FTF and
video-mediated interactions (e.g., Doherty-Sneddon &
Kent, 1996; Doherty-Sneddon & McAuley, 2000). In-
cluded in this work was a study of the impact of video
links on children when they were questioned as witnesses.
In a number of countries, including the United States,
Canada, and the United Kingdom, when children are
called as witnesses in criminal trials, they are sometimes
given the option of being cross-examined via LVLs rather
than in open court (Davies, 1999). In a study of real-life
court testimony of children, Davies and Noon (1991)
found that LVLs reduced stress in child witnesses and
improved the quality of their evidence: LVL children
were rated as more fluent and audible; they were rated as
happier and were more likely to be judged as competent
to swear the oath. Doherty-Sneddon and McAuley (2000)
found that children experienced an increase in social dis-
tance between themselves and the interviewer in VMC
that influenced many aspects of their verbal and nonverbal
communication (e.g., an increased resistance to misleading
questions and a more relaxed demeanor). In other words,
the children appeared to be less self-conscious and more
socially confident when interviewed across the video
These results are consistent with findings from studies
of adults using live video links. Overgazing by adult users
of VMC has been reported by a number of authors (e.g.,
Abel, 1990). Indeed, our own research has shown that
adults look at one another around 56% more when com-
municating via LVLs, as compared with FTF (Doherty-
Sneddon et al., 1997). This suggests that the social norms
relating to gaze are different when interactions are me-
diated, even for adults. The present study is novel in that
we investigate whether the use of gaze aversion as a cog-
nitive management strategy changes when gaze is video
mediated versus FTF.
Of course, as well as increased social distance, there
can be an attenuation of visual cues in VMC (see Doherty-
Sneddon et al., 1997). In the present study, we used a
life-sized head and upper body shot in the mediated con-
dition, so that the size of the mediated face was equiva-
lent to that of the live face, allowing good discrimination
of facial features and movement. Furthermore, the me-
diated condition allowed for mutual eye contact, a very
important part of FTF interaction. Although it is possi-
ble that physical aspects of the display (e.g., loss of depth
cues in a two-dimensional image) meant that the medi-
ated face was a less potent source of visual information,
this is unlikely, since a number of researchers have shown
that high-quality VMC (e.g., one with no delay in the
audio signal) results in the transmission of amounts of
information equivalent to those found in FTF interaction
(e.g., Anderson et al., 1997). In addition, Bruce (1995)
reported that perception of facial expressions remains in-
tact in video-mediated interactions.
So gaze aversion, from the face of an interlocutor, oc-
curs more often during cognitively demanding tasks, to
reduce cognitive load by reducing visual environmental
stimulation and/or to alleviate self-consciousness. In this
study, we attempted to tease apart these aspects. We did
this by comparing gaze aversion in video-mediated in-
teractions with that in FTF encounters. In the LVL con-
dition, it was assumed (on the basis of previous research)
that there would be an increase in social distance be-
tween the child and the questioner, reducing the social
impact of the questioner’s face and changing the norms
relating to acceptable levels of gaze. We therefore pre-
dicted that the children would avert their gaze less dur-
ing the video-mediated interactions. Furthermore, if the
tendency to avert during difficult questions is due to the
self-consciousness associated with being asked difficult
questions, we would predict that the difficulty of the
questions would have less of an influence on gaze aver-
sion when social presence was alleviated. If, however,
children avert their gaze during difficult questions in
order to reduce incoming environmental information,
question difficulty should influence gaze aversion re-
gardless of whether the interaction was mediated or not.
In this study, we investigated 8-year-olds’ gaze aver-
sion. This age group was chosen because it was one that
we had previously found to respond to increasing ques-
tion difficulty by increasing the use of gaze aversion in
a way that was equivalent to that for adults. For example,
Doherty-Sneddon et al. (2002) found that, like adults,
8-year-olds looked away more when asked difficult ver-
bal and arithmetic questions. In addition, their gaze aver-
sion peaked while the children were thinking, followed
by when they were speaking, with the lowest amount of
aversion occurring during listening. This is the same pat-
tern as that found with adults. In contrast, younger chil-
dren (5-year-olds) apply gaze aversion much less con-
sistently and to a lesser extent. The authors’ most recent
work in progress suggests that there is an important de-
velopment of gaze aversion behaviors between 5 and
6 years of age (Phelps et al., in press). By 8 years of age,
adult patterns are firmly established. Furthermore, by 8
years, children have acquired considerable knowledge of
the social rules about gazing and are likely to use gaze
and gaze aversion in response to social situations in ways
beginning to be similar to those of adults (Abramovitch
& Daly, 1978). The study of 8-year-olds, therefore, will
extrapolate well to older children and adults.
We questioned 8-year-old children either FTF or across
an LVL. Questions varied in both type (arithmetic, ver-
bal reasoning, autobiographical memory, or episodic
memory) and difficulty (easy, medium, or hard). The hy-
potheses of this study were the following: (1) We pre-
dicted that children would avert their gaze less when in-
terviewed across an LVL, as compared with FTF, and
(2) on the basis of our own previous work (Doherty-
Sneddon et al., 2002; Phelps et al., in press), we also ex-
pected that gaze aversion would be more frequent when
the children were asked moderate and very difficult ques-
tions, as compared with easy ones. If this functions pri-
marily to alleviate self-consciousness, we would expect
to see a greater effect of task difficulty in FTF interaction
than in video-mediated questioning. If however, children
increase their aversion primarily to switch off from visual
environmental stimulation, we would expect an effect of
question difficulty in both interview conditions.
Thirty-six children (16 boys and 20 girls) took part in the study;
their mean age was 8 years 5 months (range 8 years 3 months to
9 years 5 months). Children were randomly allocated to one of two
interview conditions: 17 were interviewed via an LVL (7 boys and
10 girls; Mage 8 years 5 months, range 8 years 4 months to 9
years 4 months) and 19 were interviewed FTF (9 boys and 10 girls;
Mage 8 years 4 months, range 8 years 3 month to 9 years 5
months). A further 2 children were allocated to the LVL condition.
Of these, 1 chose not to participate; the data for the other child were
lost, owing to equipment failure. Unpaired comparisons showed
that the groups were comparable in terms of their age [t(34) 0.56,
p.28]. Inclusion criteria specified English as the f irst language.
None had previously participated in related experiments.
Four different types of questions were posed to the children: ver-
bal (n36), mental arithmetic (n36), episodic memory (n
18), and autobiographical memory (n18). Both the verbal ques-
tions and the arithmetic questions were based on stimuli described
in the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, where
verbal questions required the children to define words (n9), spell
words (n9), repeat word lists (n9), and give information about
concepts (n9). The mental arithmetic questions involved addi-
tion (n9), subtraction (n9), multiplication/division (n9),
and number use (n9). The autobiographical questions involved
asking the children to recollect events that they had personally ex-
perienced, such as information pertaining to recent classroom ac-
tivities. The episodic memory questions were based on stimuli de-
scribed in the Wechsler Memory Scale–Revised (WMS–R). This
involved instructing the children to remember stimuli paired in time
(e.g., carred or ballgreen). The experimenter then provided one
half of each pairing (e.g., “what color was the car?”), and the child’s
task was to correctly recollect the event with which it had previously
been paired (i.e., red ).
For each type of question, there were three levels of difficulty:
easy, medium, and hard. These levels of difficulty were deemed to
be appropriate through consultation with the participants’ teachers
(n3), who rated how difficult an average 8-year-old would find
each question. Rating instructions stressed that the questions would
be read aloud to the child, who, in turn, would give a verbal re-
sponse. Teachers rated the difficulty of an initial set of 232 ques-
tions, using a 7-point scale, with 1 labeled very easy, through 4 la-
beled moderately easy, through 7 labeled very hard. These ratings
were used to establish the mean difficulty value for each question,
and enabled the compilation of a controlled set of questions (n
108), with questions falling under three distinct levels of difficulty:
easy (mean difficulty score ranging from 1.0 to 2.0), medium (mean
difficulty score ranging from 3.5 to 4.5), and hard (mean difficulty
score ranging from 6.0 to 7.0). Teachers’ ratings for the difficulty
levels of critical stimuli correlated highly [Teacher 1 vs. Teacher 2,
r(107) .86; Teacher 1 vs. Teacher 3, r(107) .92; Teacher 2 vs.
Teacher 3, r(107) .91]. Examples of easy, medium, and hard
verbal-vocabulary questions were What is a photograph? What is
a menu? and What is humor? respectively. Examples of the differ-
ent levels of arithmetic questions were: 96__, 3012 __ ,
and 26534 __. Easy, medium, and hard autobiographical ques-
tions were, for example, “How many points did your class group
get: this fortnight; last fortnight; two fortnights ago?” Easy episodic
questions involved the child’s remembering two different pairings
of information, medium questions involved three pairings, and hard
questions involved four.
Questions were asked either FTF or via LVL. In the case of the
LVL, images of the face and upper body were transmitted through
the use of video tunnels (Smith, O’Shea, O’Malley, Scanlon, & Tay-
lor, 1991). Each of these consisted of a color monitor (JVC TM-
90PSN, 35 cm diagonally) mounted in a wooden box behind a half-
silvered mirror. A second, fully silvered mirror was fixed parallel
above the half-silvered mirror, so that light reflected from the first
mirror would reflect off the second into a video camcorder (Pana-
sonic M10) located behind the box and above the TV monitor. Be-
cause of the half-silvered nature of the first mirror, the child, look-
ing directly into the video tunnel, was able to see an image of the
experimenter on the monitor. The child’s image was also reflected
off the mirror into a second camcorder, from which it was trans-
mitted to the monitor in the experimenter’s identically arranged
video tunnel. With correct positioning of the camera, the child and
the experimenter were able to make direct eye contact with each
other. Both the child and the experimenter were seated directly in
front of the video tunnels.
The children were asked the questions individually in a quiet lo-
cation separate from their classroom. The ordering of question type,
question difficulty, and the individual questions was fully counter-
balanced across participants. Questioning took approximately 35 min
for each child. The children interviewed FTF were seated directly
facing the questioner across a table (at a distance of approximately
5 ft) and were, therefore, able to see the face and upper body of the
questioner. The children interviewed via an LVL were also seated
directly facing the questioner (again at a distance of approximately
5 ft), but in this instance, they saw one another on a TV monitor.
The image also showed a head and upper body shot, with the face
life-sized. The amount of the questioner the child could see was,
therefore, roughly equivalent across conditions. In both conditions,
the questioner maintained her gaze on the child’s face throughout
each question episode—from when she began speaking the ques-
tion until the child finished responding.
To enable quantification of the children’s direction of eye gaze
during each stage of the question–answer interaction (listening,
thinking, and speaking), a front-on view of each child’s head and
shoulders was video recorded throughout testing, using a digital
camcorder. Although all the children were fully aware that they
were being filmed, they were not aware that their gaze behavior was
of specific interest.
The dependent measures were (1) response accuracy for each
type of question and (2) the mean percentage of time that gaze was
averted during the thinking stage of the interaction for each type of
question. The amount of time gaze was averted was measured from
when the experimenter stopped speaking the question until the child
started the response and included pauses, hesitations, and requests
for the question to be repeated. This time was converted to per-
centage of time spent averting gaze by dividing the gaze avert time
by the total thinking time and multiplying by 100. The children did
avert their gaze while speaking their responses, but this was the case
for less than half the amount of time, as compared with thinking
(mean thinking gaze aversion 61.2%, mean speaking gaze aver-
sion 29.0%). Thinking time was of particular interest in this
study, since our earlier work had shown this to be the period of high-
est cognitive load and that in which gaze aversion is most frequent
(Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002), and was the period chosen for
Interjudge reliability as to whether gaze aversion had occurred
was calculated for a random sample of 11.11% of the participants.
This calculation included all of the listening, thinking, and speaking
aversion scores for every question asked. In total, 1,296 episodes
were coded by two judges, for which there was 87.04% interjudge
agreement. Furthermore, the coders’ scoring for the duration of gaze
aversion correlated significantly [r(1,295) .62, p.01].
The effects of question difficulty and interview status
on both response accuracy and the percentage of time
that gaze was averted during the thinking stage of the
interaction (the period of time from when the questioner
stopped speaking until the child began to speak) were an-
alyzed as described in the following sections.
Accuracy of Response
We made no predictions about accuracy of responses
to questions across conditions. Analyses of accuracy
were done to show that the three levels of difficulty were
set appropriately. For each type of question, a 4 (question
type: autobiographical memory, arithmetic, verbal, or
episodic memory) 3 (question difficulty: easy, medium,
or hard) 2 (interview status: FTF or LVL) mixed design
analysis of variance (ANOVA) was employed, with ques-
tion type and question difficulty the within-groups vari-
ables and interview status the between-groups variable.
Means for each condition are displayed in Table 1.
There was a significant effect of question type
[F(3,99) 7.41, p.0001]. Paired ttests showed that
there was greater accuracy for the episodic memory ques-
tions and the arithmetic questions than for both the verbal
questions [t(34) 3.63, p.001, and t(35) 4.07, p
.001, respectively] and the autobiographical questions
[t(34) 3.38, p.01, and t(35) 2.69, p.01, respec-
tively; means: episodic 69.84%, arithmetic 67.70%,
autobiographical 60.77%, and verbal 60.15%]. There
was a significant effect of question difficulty [F(2,66)
401.33, p.0001]. Paired ttests showed that there was
greater accuracy for easy questions than for both medium
questions [t(35) 12.42, p.0001] and hard questions
[t(35) 29.02, p.0001] and for medium questions
than for hard questions [t(35) 16.84, p.0001; means:
easy 88.15%, medium 64.54%, and hard 41.20%].
There was no effect of interview status. There was a sig-
nificant interaction between question type and question
difficulty [F(6,198) 6.53, p.0001]. Simple effects
analyses showed that when questions were easy, there
was greater accuracy for arithmetic questions than for all
other types of questions (autobiographical memory ques-
tions, p.0001; verbal questions, p.05; episodic mem-
ory questions, p.01]. When questions were medium,
there was greater accuracy for arithmetic questions than
for autobiographical memory questions ( p.05) and
verbal questions ( p.01 only). When questions were
hard, there was greater accuracy for episodic memory
questions than for all other types of questions (autobio-
graphical memory questions, p.0001; arithmetic ques-
tions, p.0001; verbal questions, p.0001). No fur-
ther interactions were found.
Gaze Aversion During Thinking Stage
A 4 (question type: autobiographical memory, arith-
metic, verbal, or episodic memory) 3 (question diffi-
culty: easy, medium, or hard) 2 (interview status: FTF
or LVL) mixed design ANOVA was employed, with ques-
tion type, question difficulty, and episode the within-
groups variables and interview status the between-groups
variable. Means for each condition are displayed in Table 2.
There was a significant effect of question type
[F(3,99) 30.09, p.0001]. Paired ttests showed that
the children used significantly more aversion for autobi-
ographical memory questions than for all other types of
questions [arithmetic [t(35) 4.48, p.0001; verbal
[t(35) 9.64, p.0001; episodic memory [t(34) 6.84,
p.0001]. The children also used significantly more
aversion for arithmetic questions than for verbal ques-
tions [t(35) 5.40, p.0001] and episodic memory
questions [t(34) 2.67, p.01] and for episodic mem-
ory questions than for verbal questions [t(34) 2.00,
p.054; means: autobiographical memory 71.76%,
arithmetic 62.77%, episodic memory 57.86%, and
verbal 53.60%]. There was a significant effect of ques-
tion difficulty [F(2,66) 156.04, p.0001]. Paired
ttests showed that children used significantly more aver-
sion for both hard questions [t(35) 14.31, p.0001]
and medium questions [t(35) 14.38, p.0001] than
for easy questions and for hard questions than for medium
questions [t(35) 4.35, p.0001; means: easy 46.10%,
medium 67.03%, hard 72.26%]. There was a signif-
icant effect of interview status [F(1,33) 4.58, p.05],
with the children using significantly more aversion when
interviewed FTF (means: FTF 65.86%, LVL 56.59%).
There was a significant interaction between question
type and question difficulty [F(6,198) 11.17, p
.0001]. Simple effects analyses showed that although
there was significantly more aversion for both hard ques-
tions and medium questions than for easy questions for
each type of question (i.e., autobiographical memory,
arithmetic, verbal, and episodic memory), it was only for
the verbal questions and episodic memory questions that
there was also significantly more aversion for hard ques-
tions than for medium questions (all ps.0001). No fur-
ther interactions were found. Importantly, the interaction
between question difficulty and interview status was not
significant [F(2,66) 0.082, p.92; mean FTF, easy
50.3, medium 70.6, hard 76.7; mean LVL, easy
40.7, medium 62.1, hard 67.0]. In the FTF condi-
tion, the 95% confidence interval (CI) for the easy–hard
difference was 26.37 5.13, and in the LVL condition,
it was 25.94 5.09. These differences are large relative
to their CIs, and it follows that the only interactions that
could plausibly be present are substantially smaller than
the differences between the easy and the hard tasks.
For all types of questions, the children averted their
gaze less when interviewed across an LVL, as compared
with FTF, even though the actual physical distance be-
tween the experimenter and the child was held constant
across interview conditions and the amount of the ques-
tioner visible was equivalent. Furthermore, the children
Tab l e 1
Mean Percentages for Accuracy of Responses to Different Question Types for the Live Video Link (LVL) Group
and the Face-to-Face (FTF) Group (With Standard Deviations)
Question Difficulty
LVL Group FTF Group
Easy Medium Hard Easy Medium Hard
Autobiographical memory 78.96 15.48 61.25 16.64 38.96 11.66 87.89 11.86 59.56 17.94 36.05 16.20
Arithmetic 97.40 15.02 70.17 17.70 40.10 13.68 91.15 17.69 70.14 17.37 36.36 22.49
Verbal 89.32 20.69 65.68 30.97 39.84 22.67 87.94 19.71 53.29 18.30 26.10 14.82
Episodic memory 82.29 22.13 68.40 16.57 55.21 16.56 88.16 13.12 68.71 15.85 55.70 14.38
Tab l e 2
Mean Percentages of Time Spent in Gaze Aversion While Thinking by the Live Video Link (LVL) Group
and the Face-to-Face (FTF) Group (With Standard Deviations)
Question Difficulty
LVL Group FTF Group
Easy Medium Hard Easy Medium Hard
Autobiographical memory 53.69 17.09 71.11 14.87 72.06 16.36 68.25 15.55 81.21 11.18 80.45 11.70
Arithmetic 35.04 17.09 68.47 19.39 69.56 23.73 48.09 24.80 72.97 17.24 81.67 10.01
Verbal 40.98 14.97 50.87 15.59 57.86 13.25 43.42 18.08 60.79 18.89 68.03 15.64
Episodic memory 33.17 23.02 57.83 17.88 68.47 12.05 41.46 21.22 67.46 14.41 76.55 11.78
averted their gaze most when being asked personally rel-
evant questions—the autobiographical memory ques-
tions. This could in part be because the autobiographical
questions were more difficult (shown by the decreased
accuracy of response, as compared with episodic and
arithmetic questions). However, verbal and autobiograph-
ical questions had equivalent accuracy levels, and still
the autobiographical questions elicited more gaze aver-
sion than did the verbal. Clearly, there is a significant so-
cial component driving interpersonal gaze aversion dur-
ing questioning. Part of the reason we look away in order
to concentrate could be because we experience a nega-
tive social emotion, such as self-consciousness or em-
barrassment (Stanley & Martin, 1968). An alternative
social explanation is that we use gaze aversion to delib-
erately signal to the other person that we are in the pro-
cess of thinking. Some recent doctoral work suggests
that children can deliberately use gaze aversion as a sig-
nal of thinking. For example, children and adults are
more likely to look up while thinking if their questioner
is facing them but to look down if the questioner is turned
away from them (McCarthy, 2004). In a similar vein,
Kendon (1967) reported that adults use looking away as a
deliberate turn-holding cue—in other words, as a way of
saying “I’m about to say something”/“I’m still thinking
about what I’m going to say.
The present results make sense in terms of our own
earlier work. We have shown that the reduction in social
co-presence produced by video-mediated interviews re-
sults in children being more confident and less intimi-
dated.This had an important impact on many aspects of
their verbal and nonverbal behavior; for example, they
were more relaxed and happy and better able to disagree
with an adult questioner when asked misleading ques-
tions (Doherty-Sneddon & McAuley, 2000). The data are
also consistent with our research with adults who look at
one another around 56% more when communicating via
LVLs, as compared with FTF (Doherty-Sneddon et al.,
1997). So children and adults reduce the baseline amount
that they avert their gaze from the face of an interlocutor
when they communicate across LVLs. Our next question
was whether cognitive difficulty of questions would in-
fluence gaze aversion in both mediated and FTF condi-
tions equally.
Earlier work (Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002; Phelps
et al., in press) has shown that gaze aversion is more fre-
quent when children are asked moderately difficult ques-
tions than when asked easy ones. If this is due primarily
to the self-consciousness associated with dealing with
cognitively difficult material, we would expect to see a
greater effect of task difficulty in FTF interaction and
little effect in video-mediated questioning. If, however,
children increase their aversion to avoid environmental
information (in this case, the face of the questioner), we
would expect an effect of question difficulty in both in-
terview conditions. Our results support the latter possi-
bility. Question difficulty had an enormous impact on
the amount that the children averted their gaze from the
experimenter’s face in both interview contexts. Further-
more, this was consistently the case across all question
types. The children averted their gaze, on average, 52%
more when answering hard questions, as compared with
their easy counterparts, in FTF interviews. Similarly,
they increased their gaze aversion by 64% for hard ques-
tions in the LVL condition. Even when social factors
were greatly reduced (LVLs), the children looked away
from their interviewer more when they were trying to
process increasingly difficult information. This gives
considerable weight to the cognitive load hypothesis.
The processing costs of visual communication signals
(such as facial expressions, eye gaze, and lip movements)
are documented. For example, if one is forced to look
constantly at a listener while speaking, one’s speech will
become less fluent and contain more “erms” and “uhms”
(Beattie, 1981). We have found that asking children to
maintain gaze with a speaker’s face while listening to de-
scriptions of abstract shapes interferes with their abili-
ties to understand these descriptions. In addition, we
found that children are less able to retain visuospatial in-
formation when they have to monitor a face during re-
tention than if they are allowed to look away (Doherty-
Sneddon, Bonner, & Bruce, 2001). So gaze aversion is
an overt strategy for shifting one’s attention from envi-
ronmental stimulation (such as faces) to processing of
other internal information. The present study shows that
this is true for both live and video-mediated faces.
This work has clear educational implications. It ap-
pears that children use gaze aversion to control their own
cognitive load. There are social factors at work, and
teachers and others working with children would be well
advised to allow children to set a comfortable intimacy
distance and avoid intimidating questioning. Another
practical application of this work is with child witnesses.
Earlier work has shown that children are more confident
and less suggestible to misleading questions when cross-
examined across LVLs (e.g., Davies, 1999). The fact that
the children in the present study averted their gaze from
the questioner less during video link interactions sug-
gests that they too were less intimidated. It is yet to be es-
tablished whether the gazing behavior of child witnesses,
either in open court or across LVLs, influences how cred-
ible jurors perceive them to be, an extremely important
issue for the court process (Goodman et al., 1998).
Cultural rules about gaze behavior also help deter-
mine our response to gaze and gaze aversion. For exam-
ple, in Britain, children are typically told to “Look at me
when I’m speaking to you,” whereas in America, chil-
dren are encouraged “Not to stare.” In addition, Black
Americans interpret gaze aversion as a sign of respect,
rather than as a sign of disinterest (Hanna, 1984). Cul-
tures differ significantly in terms of how much gaze be-
tween individuals is acceptable or desirable. For exam-
ple, with contact cultures (such as Latin America and
Southern Europe), people engage in more gaze, overall,
than do people coming from noncontact cultures, such
as Northern Europe (Halberstadt, 1985; Watson, 1970).
However, social influences aside, we must also be
aware of the important cognitive function that gaze aver-
sion plays in any conversation, especially when the ma-
terial being discussed is demanding. Gaze aversion is
often a sign of concentration and inner effort. Teachers
and other professionals must be proficient in reading
children’s gaze aversion in conjunction with other cues, in
order to determine, for example, when children are en-
gaged in learning, are just about to understand, or per-
haps are switching off from a task (Doherty-Sneddon
et al., 2002). Indeed, in our ongoing research, we are in-
vestigating whether teachers do, in fact, use information
from children’s gaze (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005).
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... In SLA, the effects of manipulating task complexity have been observed by modifying task variables and analyzing outcome measures of complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF;Housen et al., 2009). In psychology, additional effects of manipulating task complexity (and hence, the difficulty of questions) have been found through changes in nonverbal behaviors such as gaze (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005;Glenberg et al., 1998;Révész, 2014). Nonetheless, to date, there is scant research in the language testing literature connecting test validation research with response processes via changes in nonverbal behavior. ...
... Shift in gaze may also signal to listeners when speakers are planning upcoming utterances, and they may mark moments of disfluencies or hesitation prior to speaking (Beattie, 1983). Changes in gaze patterns may also represent physiological responses to cognitive load (Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002, Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005Glenberg et al., 1998). ...
... Few studies in our field have targeted the cognitive processing involved in discrete speaking test questions. There is precedent for this in psychology (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005), which has showed that important cognitive mechanisms occur as a result of question difficulty in a very brief interval after the question has been heard. By focusing on one specific unit of time between the finalization of the test question and the beginning of the test-taker's response, I was able to show that this is also the case in the context of second language speaking. ...
The effects of question or task complexity on second language speaking have traditionally been investigated using complexity, accuracy, and fluency measures. Response processes in speaking tests, however, may manifest in other ways, such as through nonverbal behavior. Eye behavior, in the form of averted gaze or blinking frequency, has been found to play an important role in regulating information in studies on human cognition, and it may therefore be an important subconscious signal of test question difficulty in language testing. In this study, 15 CEFR B2/C1-level-English learners took a Zoom-based English test with ten questions spanning six CEFR complexity levels. The participants’ eye behaviors were recorded and analyzed between the moment the test question ended and the beginning of their response. The participants additionally provided self-report data on their perceptions of test-question difficulty. Results indicated that as test questions increased in difficulty, participants were more likely to avert their gaze from the interlocutor. They did not, however, blink more frequently as difficulty changed. These results have methodological implications for research on test validation and the study of nonverbal behavior in speaking tests.
... Even though gaze aversion during memory retrieval has been described as searching for the answer on the ceiling or in the sky (Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps, 2005) or even referred to as head in the clouds (Previc et al., 2005), suggesting that the gaze is directed upward during memory retrieval, such behavior has in fact mostly been interpreted as looking at neutral parts of the surrounding space, containing fewer visual distractors (Salvi and Bowden, 2016). Overall, gaze aversion has received little attention, and to the best of our knowledge, no scientific study has evaluated if specific directions of the gaze could be interpreted by observers as being related to specific mental states. ...
... It would be interesting to investigate how certain cognitive processes influence not only direction but also other features of gaze aversions, such as gaze eccentricity, temporality, or duration. Because gaze aversion is generally related to cognitive effort (Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps, 2005), the differences or similarities that we observed between the internal mental states that we used (i.e., autobiographical memory, semantic memory, and working memory) could be partially due to cognitive resource requirements. Indeed, autobiographical memory retrieval can be more or less demanding since it can sometimes "pop up" spontaneously and automatically in daily life in response to environmental cues (Berntsen, 2010), whereas at other times a strong effort is required to retrieve specific details. ...
Full-text available
Gaze direction is a powerful social cue that indicates the direction of attention and can be used to decode others’ mental states. When an individual looks at an external object, inferring where their attention is focused from their gaze direction is easy. But when people are immersed in memories, their attention is oriented towards their inner world. Is there any specific gaze direction in this situation, and if so, which one? While trying to remember, a common behavior is gaze aversion, which has mostly been reported as an upward-directed gaze. Our primary aim was to evaluate whether gaze direction plays a role in the inference of the orientation of attention—i.e., external vs. internal—in particular, whether an upward direction is considered as an indicator of attention towards the internal world. Our secondary objective was to explore whether different gaze directions are consistently attributed to different types of internal mental states and, more specifically, memory states (autobiographical or semantic memory retrieval, or working memory). Gaze aversion is assumed to play a role in perceptual decoupling, which is supposed to support internal attention. We therefore also tested whether internal attention was associated with high gaze eccentricity because the mismatch between head and eye direction alters visual acuity. We conducted two large-sample (160–163 participants) online experiments. Participants were asked to choose which mental state—among different internal and external attentional states—they would attribute to faces with gazes oriented in different directions. Participants significantly associated internal attention with an upward-averted gaze across experiments, while external attention was mostly associated with a gaze remaining on the horizontal axis. This shows that gaze direction is robustly used by observers to infer others’ mental states. Unexpectedly, internal attentional states were not more associated with gaze eccentricity at high (30°) than low (10°) eccentricity and we found that autobiographical memory retrieval, but not the other memory states, was highly associated with 10° downward gaze. This reveals the possible existence of different types of gaze aversion for different types of memories and opens new perspectives.
... PDec is evidenced by eye behavior becoming less determined by the characteristics and dynamics of the visual environment. Relevant eye behaviors include gaze aversion (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005;Mastroberardino & Vredeveldt, 2014;Vredeveldt et al., 2011), increased fixation disparity (i.e., staring into space; Annerer- Walcher et al., 2018), and increased blink rates and durations (Annerer-Walcher et al., 2018;Walcher et al., 2017), which all contribute to reduce the amount of visual information (Denkova et al., 2018;Faber et al., 2020;Walcher et al., 2017). Moreover, PDec was related to increased variability of eye behavior Smallwood et al., 2011). ...
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Eye behavior differs between internally and externally directed cognition and thus is indicative of an internal versus external attention focus. Recent work implicated perceptual decoupling (i.e., eye behavior becoming less determined by the sensory environment) as one of the key mechanisms involved in these attention-related eye movement differences. However, it is not yet understood how perceptual decoupling depends on the characteristics of the internal task. Therefore, we systematically examined effects of varying internal task demands on smooth pursuit eye movements. Specifically, we evaluated effects of the internal workload (control vs. low vs. high) and of internal task (arithmetic vs. visuospatial). The results of multilevel modelling showed that effects of perceptual decoupling were stronger for higher workload, and more pronounced for the visuospatial modality. Effects also followed a characteristic time-course relative to internal operations. The findings provide further support of the perceptual decoupling mechanism by showing that it is sensitive to the degree of interference between external and internal information.
... There are multiple motivations for gaze avoidance, some of which may be based on demands of language planning and processing. For example, senders often look away from addressees when planning their talk, or to hold the floor while engaged in a turn at talk (for a review, see Degutyte & Astell, 2021;Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005). Another factor in gaze avoidance is the societal interpretation that long stretches of mutual gaze are impolite. ...
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Pointing with the chin is a practice attested worldwide: it is an effective and highly recognizable device for re-orienting the attention of the addressee. For the chin point to be observed, the addressee must attend carefully to the movements of the sender’s head. This demand comes into conflict with the politeness norms of many cultures, since these often require conversationalists to avoid meeting the gaze of their interlocutor, and can require them to look away from their interlocutor’s face and head. In this paper we explore how the chin point is successfully used in just such a culture, among the Chatino indigenous group of Oaxaca, Mexico. We analyze interactions between multiple dyads of Chatino speakers, examining how senders invite visual attention to the pointing gesture, and how addressees signal that attention, while both participants avoid stretches of mutual gaze. We find that in the Chatino context, the senior (or higher-status) party to the conversation is highly consistent in training their gaze away from their interlocutor. This allows their interlocutor to give visual attention to their face without the risk of meeting the gaze of a higher-status sender, and facilitates close attention to head movements including the chin point. Abstracts in Spanish and Quiahije Chatino are published as appendices. Se incluyen como apéndices resúmenes en español y en el chatino de San Juan Quiahije. SonG ktyiC reC inH, ngyaqC skaE ktyiC noE ndaH sonB naF ngaJ noI ngyaqC loE ktyiC reC, ngyaqC ranF chaqE xlyaK qoE chaqF jnyaJ noA ndywiqA renqA KchinA KyqyaC.
... Annerer- Walcher and colleagues (2018; extended these findings in the domain of goal-oriented internal cognition, showing that pupil diameter (PD) variance is consistently increased during internal versus external tasks across three modality domains (i.e., arithmetic, verbal, visuospatial). Other eye behavior patterns associated with internal task performance include gaze aversion (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005;Mastroberardino & Vredeveldt, 2014;Vredeveldt et al., 2011), increased fixation disparity (i.e., staring into space; Annerer- Walcher et al., 2018), as well as increased blink rates and durations (Annerer-Walcher et al., 2018;Walcher et al., 2017), which imply reduced visual perceptual engagement and increased workload, and thus offer further oculomotor evidence of perceptual decoupling. We have recently shown that perceptual decoupling effects are moderated by the task modality and workload of internal tasks, as these factors determine the degree of impairment on parallel voluntary eye movements, i.e., smooth pursuit (Korda et al., 2022). ...
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Perceptual decoupling is an attentional mechanism that helps us maintain an internalfocus by disengaging attention from external, sensory information. Evidence for it can beseen in eye behavior, with several ocular parameters being indicative of internal versusexternal attention focus. Previous findings showed that voluntary eye movements are affectedby internal task performance, with a higher reliance on shared cognitive resources resulting ina higher degree of perceptual decoupling. However, it remains unclear whether this effectextends to reflexive eye behavior, which may not share cognitive resources with internalactivities. Therefore, the present study examined whether internal attention affects thepupillary light response (PLR). We induced PLR by a sudden increase in luminance duringthe performance of an internal task, which varied in modality (arithmetic vs. visuospatial) andworkload. We found that the PLR was not affected (e.g., attenuated) by internal attentionacross internal tasks, and workload-related increases in pupil diameter even appeareddiminished during the PLR. These findings suggest that perceptual decoupling effects may belimited to voluntary eye behavior and do not extend to reflexive eye behavior.
... However, we anticipated that even small effects might be enhanced by the manipulation, or that effects unobservable in a non-depleted state might manifest as a result of the manipulation. For example, although gaze aversion is unrelated to deception according to the meta-analysis (DePaulo et al., 2003), it is assumed to be used to manage cognitive load (see e.g., Doherty-Sneddon et al., 2002;Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005;Glenberg et al., 1998). Accordingly, instructions to maintain gaze have previously been used as a manipulation of cognitive load to increase behavioral differences between liars and truth-tellers (Vrij et al., 2010). ...
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Lying is cognitively demanding and presumably requires self-regulation. According to ego depletion theory, a task that requires self-regulation should therefore impair an individual’s ability to tell a convincing lie in a later task. Consequently, it was hypothesized that a manipulation of ego depletion would enhance behavioral differences between liars and truth-tellers. To manipulate ego depletion, participants worked (vs. did not work) on a task in which they had to suppress dominant responses while copying a text. Subsequently, they talked in a simulated job interview about a job they had previously held (vs. not held). In the sample of 164 participants, there was no evidence to support the hypothesis; the expected Ego Depletion x Veracity interaction was not significant for any of the 15 behavioral cues coded in the videotaped interviews. Although the main effect of ego depletion was significant at the multivariate level for the first of two parts of the interview, none of the univariate main effects reached the significance level corrected for multiple testing. Bayesian analyses rendered moderate to strong evidence in favor of the null hypothesis. Possible implications of the results are discussed, also those related to ego depletion theory.
... The differential age and relative experience in the lab environment of the social partners in these studies may influence gaze in systematic ways. For example, there is some evidence to support the notion that fear of failure in a testing environment increases the tendency to avert gaze among TD individuals (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005). Therefore, employing a paradigm with a participant/researcher structured dyad may have critical implications for assessing gaze behavior. ...
Human social interaction involves a complex, dynamic exchange of verbal and non-verbal information. Over the last decade, eye-tracking technology has afforded unique insight into the way eye gaze information, including both holding gaze and shifting gaze, organizes live human interactions. For example, while playing a social game together, speakers end their turn by directing gaze at the listener, who begins to speak with averted gaze (Ho et al., 2015). These findings reflect how eye gaze can be used to signal important turn-taking transitions in social interactions. Deficits in conversational turn-taking is a core feature of autism spectrum disorders. Individuals on the autism spectrum also have notable difficulties processing eye gaze information (Griffin & Scherf, 2020). A central hypothesis in the literature is that the difficulties in processing eye gaze information are foundational to the social communication deficits that make social interactions so challenging for individuals on the autism spectrum. Although eye-tracking technology has been used extensively to assess the way individuals on the spectrum attend to stimuli presented on computer screens (for review see Papagiannopoulou et al., 2014), it has rarely been used to evaluate the critical question regarding whether and how autistic individuals process non-verbal social cues from their partners during live social interactions. Here, we review this emerging literature with a focus on characterizing the experimental paradigms and eye-tracking procedures to understand the scope (and limitations) of research questions and findings. We discuss the theoretical implications of the findings from this review and provide recommendations for future work that will be essential to understand whether and how fundamental difficulties in perceiving and processing information about eye gaze cues interfere with social communication skills in autism.
... Interestingly, re-directing attention towards the internal world, which is suggested to occur during divergent thinking, has been mapped into gaze patterns (Ceh et al., 2020). Eye movements play an important role in mental manipulation such as retrieving or imaging different objects, and scenes and gaze aversion (i.e., gazing away from the center) allows humans to disengage from external stimuli and re-orient their attention to internally directed cognitive processes (Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps, 2005). Also, pupil dilation has been identified as a potential proxy for creative thinking. ...
The compound nature of creativity entails the interplay of multiple cognitive processes, making it difficult to attribute creativity to a single neural signature. Divergent thinking paradigms, widely adopted to investigate creative production, have highlighted the key role of specific mental operations subserving creativity, such as inhibition of external stimuli, loose semantic associations, and mental imagery. Neurophysiological studies have typically shown a high alpha rhythm synchronization when individuals are engaged in creative ideation. Also, oculomotor activity and pupil diameter have been proposed as useful indicators of mental operations involved in such a thinking process. The goal of this study was to investigate whether beyond alpha-band activity other higher frequency bands, such as beta and gamma, may subserve divergent and convergent thinking and whether those could be associated with a different gaze bias and pupil response during ideas generation. Implementing a within-subjects design we collected behavioral measures, neural activity, gaze patterns, and pupil dilation while participants performed a revised version of the Alternative Uses Task, in which divergent thinking is contrasted to convergent thinking. As expected, participants took longer to generate creative ideas as compared to common ones. Interestingly, during divergent thinking participants displayed alpha synchronization along with beta and gamma desynchronization, more pronounced leftward gaze shift, and greater pupil dilation. During convergent thinking, an opposite pattern was observed: desynchronization in alpha and an increase in beta and gamma rhythm, along with a reduction of leftward gaze shift and greater pupil constriction. The present study uncovered specific neural dynamics and physiological patterns during idea generation, providing novel insight into the complex physiological signature of creative production.
... Children look away from informative stimuli while answering difficult questions to reduce cognitive load associated with bottom-up stimulus processing (Doherty-Sneddon & Phelps, 2005), and irrelevant bottom-up stimulus information interferes with top-down processing during long-term memory retrieval (Wais et al., 2010). Similarly, performance in a recall task was higher when subjects' eyes were closed (Vredeveldt & Hitch, 2011). ...
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As we age, we accumulate a wealth of information about the surrounding world. Evidence from visual search suggests that older adults retain intact knowledge for where objects tend to occur in everyday environments (semantic information) that allows them to successfully locate objects in scenes, but may overrely on semantic guidance. We investigated age differences in the allocation of attention to semantically informative and visually salient information in a task in which the eye movements of younger (N = 30, aged 18-24) and older (N = 30, aged 66-82) adults were tracked as they described real-world scenes. We measured the semantic information in scenes based on "meaning map" ratings from a norming sample of young and older adults, and image salience as graph-based visual saliency. Logistic mixed-effects modeling was used to determine whether, controlling for center bias, fixated scene locations differed in semantic informativeness and visual salience from locations that were not fixated, and whether these effects differed for young and older adults. Semantic informativeness predicted fixated locations well overall, as did image salience, although unique variance in the model was better explained by semantic informativeness than image salience. Older adults were less likely to fixate informative locations in scenes than young adults were, though the locations older adults' fixated were independently predicted well by informativeness. These results suggest young and older adults both use semantic information to guide attention in scenes and that older adults do not overrely on semantic information across the board. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
In today’s fast-paced world, our brain spends almost half of our waking hours distracted from current environmental stimuli, often referred to as mind wandering in the scientific literature. At the same time, people frequently have several hours daily screen time, signifying the ubiquity of digital technologies. Here, we investigate mind wandering while using digital technologies. Measuring mind wandering (i.e., off-task thought), however, comes with challenges. In this research-in-progress paper, we present an experimental approach based on EEG, eye-tracking, questionnaires, and performance data to measure wind wandering. Our work draws upon the Unusual Uses Task, a widely used task to measure divergent thinking (as a proxy for mind wandering). We describe the experimental setup and discuss initial findings.
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On the assumption that eye-contact and avoidance is associated with anxiety increase and decrease, respectively, it was predicted that Ss would make less eye-contact with the E when recalling material involving competing associations than with material involving noncompeting associations. Using an interview situation in which the E asked for five Christian names beginning with the letter T (competitive associations) and for recitation of the alphabet (noncompetitive associations) this prediction was confirmed. The presence of an O looking, as distinct from the O not looking, produced less eye-contact in the former than in the latter task.
2 studies were conducted to investigate children's use of head orientation and eye contact as cues for judging affiliation. In the first study 40 preschool children were shown videotaped female dyads who faced or did not face each other. The children were asked which dyads liked or did not like each other. Subjects were able to make accurate judgments of affiliation based on head orientation. In the second study 32 preschool children and 30 elementary school children were asked with which of two female confederates they would like to interact. The confederates were presented on videotapes in which the only difference between them was absence or presence of eye contact-the confederate either looked into the camera or kept her eyes down. The preschool children showed no preference based on eye contact. However, the older children showed a significant preference. There was no significant sex difference in either study.
The impact of high bandwidth video links on children’s abilities to give evidence about a neutral event was investigated. Thirty-two six year olds and 32 ten year olds took part. Each child was interviewed by a trained adult either face-to-face or across a live video link. Face-to-face and video condition interviews did not differ in terms of: total correct information; relevant information given during narrative recall; or the style of questioning required. However significantly more incorrect information was given during specific questioning in the face-to-face interviews, and younger children were significantly more resistant to leading questions in the video condition. Some gestural information was lost in the video condition due to camera angles. Furthermore, older children produced more information during free narrative recall in face-to-face interviews. Positive effects of the video condition are interpreted as due to increasing social distance. Negative effects are associated with attenuation of visual cues.
Is the information that gesture provides about a child's understanding of a task accessible not only to experimenters who are trained in coding gesture but also to untrained observers? Twenty adults were asked to describe the reasoning of 12 different children, each videotaped responding to a Piagetian conservation task. Six of the children on the videotape produced gestures that conveyed the same information as their nonconserving spoken explanations, and 6 produced gestures that conveyed different information from their nonconserving spoken explanations. The adult observers displayed more uncertainty in their appraisals of children who produced different information in gesture and speech than in their appraisals of children who produced the same information in gesture and speech. Moreover, the adults were able to incorporate the information conveyed in the children's gestures into their own spoken appraisals of the children's reasoning. These data suggest that, even without training, adults form impressions of children's knowledge based not only on what children say with their mouths but also on what they say with their hands.