Re-encountering individuals who previously engaged in joint gaze modulates subsequent gaze cueing

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We assessed the extent to which previous experience of joint gaze with people (i.e., looking towards the same object) modulates later gaze cueing of attention elicited by those individuals. Participants in Experiments 1 and 2a/b first completed a saccade/antisaccade task while a to-be-ignored face either looked at, or away from, the participants’ eye movement target. Two faces always engaged in joint gaze with the participant, whereas two other faces never engaged in joint gaze. Then, we assessed standard gaze cueing in response to these faces to ascertain the effect of these prior interactions on subsequent social attention episodes. In Experiment 1, the face’s eyes moved before the participant’s target appeared, meaning that the participant always gaze-followed two faces and never gaze-followed two other faces. We found that this prior experience modulated the timecourse of subsequent gaze cueing. In Experiments 2a/b, the participant looked at the target first, then was either followed (i.e., the participant initiated joint gaze), or was not followed. These participants then showed an overall decrement of gaze cueing with individuals who had previously followed participants’ eyes (Experiment 2a), an effect that was associated with autism spectrum quotient scores and modulated perceived trustworthiness of the faces (Experiment 2b). Experiment 3 demonstrated that these modulations are unlikely to be due to the association of different levels of task difficulty with particular faces. These findings suggest that establishing joint gaze with others influences subsequent social attention processes that are generally thought to be relatively insensitive to learning from prior episodes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-284
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number2
Early online date26 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

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