The influence of social and emotional context on the gaze leading orienting effect

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We spontaneously orient our attention towards people whose gaze we have led (the “gaze leading” effect). Here, we investigated whether this orienting effect is sensitive to the social and emotional content of the stimuli within the interactions. Experiment 1 replicated the gaze leading effect but found no reliable influence of facial dominance or object valence. Experiment 2, where only object valence was manipulated, replicated Experiment 1. Thus, the gaze leading effect appears reliable but insensitive to the properties of the shared referent object. Experiment 3 varied only facial dominance; a marginally significant interaction indicated that attention was deployed towards high-dominant faces more than low-dominant gaze followers. Experiment 4 varied the social information relating to the social status that participants hold regarding the faces with which they interacted, but statistical support for an influence of biographical information on gaze leading was weak. Overall, the gaze leading effect appears generally reliable, and may vary when information about the individuals following our gaze is manipulated, though it is not yet fully clear which socio-evaluative features are most relevant. Future investigations may therefore require more powerful or sensitive designs to better evaluate the role of socioemotional factors and processes on this social orienting effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-69
Number of pages16
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number1-2
Early online date4 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Shared attention
  • emotion
  • face perception
  • gaze perception
  • social cognition

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