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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2008 May;137(2):244-61. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.137.2.244.

Visual representation of eye gaze is coded by a nonopponent multichannel system.

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  • 1MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.


To date, there is no functional account of the visual perception of gaze in humans. Previous work has demonstrated that left gaze and right gaze are represented by separate mechanisms. However, these data are consistent with either a multichannel system comprising separate channels for distinct gaze directions (e.g., left, direct, and right) or an opponent-coding system in which all gaze directions are coded by just 2 pools of cells, one coding left gaze and the other right, with direct gaze represented as a neutral point reflecting equal activation of both left and right pools. In 2 experiments, the authors used adaptation procedures to investigate which of these models provides the optimal account. Both experiments supported multichannel coding. Previous research has shown that facial identity is coded by an opponent-coding system; hence, these results also demonstrate that gaze is coded by a different representational system to facial identity.

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