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Spat Vis. 2006;19(6):529-45.

Searching for asymmetries in the detection of gaze contact versus averted gaze under different head views: a behavioural study.

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Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives et Imagerie Cérébrale, CNRS UPR640 LENA-Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, 47 boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75651 Paris 13, France.


Eye contact is a crucial social cue constituting a frequent preliminary to interaction. Thus, the perception of others' gaze may be associated with specific processes beginning with asymmetries in the detection of direct versus averted gaze. We tested this hypothesis in two behavioural experiments using realistic eye stimuli in a visual search task. We manipulated the head orientation (frontal or deviated) and the visual field (right or left) in which the target appeared at display onset. We found that direct gaze targets presented among averted gaze distractors were detected faster and better than averted gaze targets among direct gaze distractors, but only when the head was deviated. Moreover, direct gaze targets were detected very quickly and efficiently regardless of head orientation and visual field, whereas the detection of averted gaze was strongly modulated by these factors. These results suggest that gaze contact has precedence over contextual information such as head orientation and visual field.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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