Eye contact effect ABSTRACT

Eye contact effect

Eyecontact effect

ABSTRACT

Thisresearch focuses on the effect of gaze direction as the fundamentalaspect of social cognitive functioning and behavioural processes. Itwas predicted that an individual’s direction of gaze i.e. direct oraverted gazes would impact the individual’s memory, such that theirrecognition would be enhanced for stimulus previously observedthrough direct gaze.

Duringthe study, the participants were placed before a computer screen andwere presented with faces displaying either direct or averted gaze.Inverted versions of these faces were created by flipping themvertically. Both upright and inverted faces with direct gazereceived considerably higher scores than their respectivecounterparts with averted gaze.

Meaningof eye contact effect

Senjuand Johnson, (2009) defines eye contact effect as the modulation ofperceptual, behavioural and cognitive processes by direct gazearbitrated by a subcortial face detection pathway including theamygdala. In the early mid-1960s, the term came from the West tooften define the act as a meaningful and important sign of assurance,value and social communication. Inthe western civilizations, eye contact is most often defined as asymbol of confidence.&nbspEye contact is not consistent amongstdifferent religions, cultures and social backgrounds as it indicateshow interested a person is in the communication taking place, itcould also suggest trust and truthfulness.

Eyecontact portrays someone`s involvement and attention. Attention is afunction of eye contact that can be both negatively and positivelyaffected by a person`s gaze. Gazeplays a crucial role in cognition process since it is a way ofgetting feedback on particular points. The duration of a gaze, therate of glances, patterns of fascination, pupil dilation, andblinking rate are all vital signals in nonverbal communication.

Importanceof Eye Contact Effect

Eyecontact effect has three main importances according to psychologyscholars. First, Mason et al., (2004) argues that eye contactenhances face recognition. It is likely if a person looks at anotherdirectly then this would have an impact on their ability to recognizeeach other due to the subsequent memorability enhanced by detailsobtained during the gaze. Maintaining eye contact shows yourpresenter that as a listener you understand what is being said andthis is through language and communication techniques like noddingwhich accompany eye contact. Thus eye contact enhances basic aspectsof social cognitive functioning and a person’s perception.

Eyecontact also affects the social cognitive functions that capture thesignificance of gaze direction in human interaction. For instance,faces with direct gaze are recognized better than faces with deviatedgaze, although this effect is mostly pronounced in adults.Additionally, encoding process during direct gaze over deviated gazeis believed to be greater. Stein et al., (2011) argues that eyecontact attracts attention and gets prioritized visual processing inthat faces with direct and averted gaze becomes invisible usinginterocular limit. On the other hand, faces with direct gaze overcamesuch inhibition more rapidly than those with averted gaze. Theseprovide an improved unconscious representation of direct gaze,enhancing an automatic and quick detection of other individuals whomake eye contact with observers.

Finally,Wang et al., (2011) highlights that eye contact facilitates mimicry.Mimicry is the unconscious imitation of other people`s behaviours.When two people meet for the first time, a slight interaction ofsocial behaviours, including eye contact and unconscious mimicry ofactions play an important role in them liking each other. Inconclusion eye contact is a very powerful social gesture which inmany cases increases unconscious mimicry during human interactions.

Howeye contact affects cognitive processing and behavioural responses

The“eye contact effect” is the observable fact that perceived eyecontact with another human face adjusts some aspects of theconcurrent and/or immediately following cognitive processing.Additionally, practical imaging studies in adults have shown that eyecontact can modulate activities in structures in the social brainnetwork. Also developmental studies show evidence for preferentialorienting toward processing of faces with direct gaze from early inlife.

Inhumans, eye contact provides groundwork of communication and socialinteraction. Some scholars argue that eye contact directly stimulatesbrain arousal systems and/or elicits a strong emotional response.This heightened arousal or emotional level then influences successiveperceptual and cognitive processing. Even though the neuralmechanisms fundamental to this effect have not been specified,emotional arousal is usually connected with visceral, autonomic andendocrine changes in the body, provoked by subcortical structures,predominantly the amygdale that generally activates widespreadcortical structures. Thus the conclusion that eye contact elevatesphysiological arousal in human behavioural responses of the face.

Whyeye contact affects recognition and behaviour

Inhuman and non-human primates eye contact is a fundamental componentin multifaceted social behaviour and thus receives privileged visualprocessing and controls cognitive processes. This inborn capabilityto detect eye contact lays the basis for the later development ofsocial cognition. Moreover, eye contact also improves performance inmore complex face-related tasks, such as recognition memory.

Directgaze in eye contact effects has been shown to affect structuralencoding of faces as well as their cognitive processing. Theneurocognitive mechanisms that take part in perceiving and respondingto eye contact are salient social signal of interest and readinessfor interaction.

Directgaze elicits greater face-sensitive N170 amplitudes and earlyposterior negativity potentials than averted gaze or closed eyes inthe live condition. The results demonstrate that early-stageprocessing of facial information is improved by another person`sdirect gaze when the person is faced live. Looking at a live facewith a direct gaze is processed more intensely than a face withaverted gaze or closed eyes, as the direct gaze is able to intensifythe feeling of being the target of the other`s interest andintentions.

METHOD

Participants

Participantsinvolved in the experiments were 20 individuals (age range 20–35years) with normal or corrected-to-normal vision. All wereinexperienced to the reason of the study.

Design

Duringthe study, the experiment manipulated two within-participantsindependent variables. First, the number of dimensions in the matrixhad two levels: 2D and 3D matrices. The second independent variablewas the gaze condition which consisted of five levels which includedeyes closed, eye contact with the experimenter, or gazing at a blankcomputer monitor screen or one displaying either a static or dynamicvisual stimulus. On the other hand, the dependent variable was thenumber of accurate responses by the participants who perfectlyidentified the correct end-point in the matrix.

Stimuli

Participantswere asked to maintain steady fixation throughout the experiment.Face stimuli were selected to rule out the possible confoundingcontrol of greater eye balance present in the faces with direct gazeand straight head bearing.

InExperiment, face photographs were adopted and consisted of 20 imagesper every condition direct gaze and averted gaze while investigatingthe detection of visible gaze directions. The stimulus was shown toeach participant in a random sequence. These stimuli were createdfrom the same base image depicting an image with an averted head. Eyeregion from other photographs of the image were then laid over ontothe base image and carefully smoothened onto the base image. Thesuperimposed eyes were directed either fully to the left or to theright. This produced the notion of direct gaze when the eye gaze andhead were oriented in opposite directions and the impression ofaverted gaze when eye gaze and head were pointing in the samedirection.

Moreover,inverted versions of these faces were created by flipping themvertically. Both upright and inverted faces with direct gazereceived considerably higher scores than their respectivecounterparts with averted gaze.

Procedure

TheParticipants were informed that they were taking part in a study ofperceptual processing. They were given written directives on how tocomplete the task as well as the 3 blocks of 40 demonstration trials. Each participant was then fitted with an Electroencephalographic(EEG) cap. Participants sat in front of a computer screen and wereinstructed to remain steady. They viewed either a blank computerscreen or a static or dynamic visual stimulus. The blank screen wasdisplayed in randomly determined inter-trial intervals of 1000ms,1200ms and 1400ms. The fixation cross was located at the centre ofthe computer screen and was displayed for 500ms while the stimuluswas displayed on either the right or left of the fixation cross for1000ms.

Inthe eyes closed condition, participants were required to keep theireyes closed throughout the trial. Participants were instructed tostick to these directives until when giving their answer. At thebeginning of each trial, the experimenter pointed to one of thematrices to indicate the appropriate matrix and indicated thatmatrix’s starting point verbally and by pointing to the relevantblock. The matrix was then concealed from view, and theaudio-recorded instructions for that trial were played to theparticipant. The experimenter remained silent, motionless, andunresponsive throughout each trial. At the end of the trial, theexperimenter uncovered the matrix and asked the participant toindicate the final block in the path, either verbally or by pointing,or both, and the Experiment recorded the participant’s response.

DataAcquisition

Stimuliwere presented using Presentation software, which also sent triggersignals to the EEG acquisition computer.EEG was recorded using 32active electrodes (Acticap, Brain Products GmbH, Germany), arrangedaccording to an extended version of the 10-20 system at F7, F3, Fz,F4, F8, FC5, FC1, FCz, FC2, FC6, T5, C3, Cz, C4, T6, CP5, CP1, CP2,CP6, P7, P3, Pz, P4, P8, O1, Oz, and O2, using carefully positionednylon caps. All electrodes were referenced to the left mastoid duringrecording. Vertical eye movements were monitored using pairs ofbipolar electrooculography (EOG) electrodes positioned directly aboveand beneath the right eye, and horizontal eye movements weremonitored using pairs of bipolar EOG electrodes positioned at theouter canthi of the eyes. Impedance was kept below 10 kΩ. EEG andEOG signals were amplified within a bandwidth of 0.05-100 Hz anddigitized with a sampling frequency of 1000 Hz.

DataProcessing

Electroencephalographic(EEG) data processing was performed off-line using Brain VisionAnalyzer software (V. 1.05, Brain Products GmbH, Germany). EEG datawere first re-referenced to the mean of both mastoid electrodes.Automated ocular correction was performed using the procedure byGratton, Coles, &amp Donchin (1983) to eliminate artifacts inducedby horizontal or vertical eye movements. The data were filtered usinga high-pass filter of 0.01 Hz (24 dB/oct) and a low pass filter of 40Hz (24 dB/oct) in order to remove slow drifts and excessive noise,respectively. The corrected EEG data were then segmented into epochsfrom 100 ms before to 1000 ms after stimulus onset. Individual trialswere removed if they contained further artifacts possibly induced byhead, body, or arm movements, as indicated by a difference betweenthe maximum and the minimum value within a given segment thatexceeded 150 μV. Averages were calculated separately for eachparticipant and condition. The 100 ms before stimulus onset was usedas the baseline period.

Dataanalysis

ERPcomponents during the study were mainly the visual component usuallygiven labels such as P1 and N1 which refers to their polarity andposition within the waveform, and these labels do not necessary meanthat they are linked somehow to the nature of the underlying brainactivity. For instance, N170 was used as the mean amplitude in μVfrom 140ms to 180ms after the stimulus onset while the late positivepotential (LPP) mean amplitude in μV was from 350ms to 800ms afterthe stimulus onset.

N170amplitude and the LPP amplitudes were analysed by both gaze directionand electrode. The EEG and EOG data signals were analysed by theBrain Vision Analyzer software (V. 1.05, Brain Products GmbH,Germany).

RESULTS

Theface-specific N170 component elicited maximally at lateral temporalelectrodes was not affected by face familiarity. When compared withunfamiliar faces, familiar faces elicited an enhanced negativitybetween 140ms and 180ms. While N170 reflects the pre-categoricalstructural encoding of faces.

Figure1(an appendix) illustrates the mean percentage of recognition scoresfor each vision situation in each type of condition. The figureprovides significant main effect of vision such that higherpercentage of recognition score was produced when the participantcould see the experimenter than when the participant could not seethe experimenter, F(1, 20) = 252.45, p = .045. Although the maineffect of the condition type was not significant, F (1, 20) =-182.65, p = – 035, there was a significant vision by each conditioninteraction. Post-hoc tests supported that the difference between theaverted gaze and direct gaze conditions was significant only forparticipants who were acquaintances with the experimenter and not forparticipants who had a close relationship with the experimenter.

Anexamination was carried out to determine if the percentage of therecognition scores was significantly greater than chance (29%). Thiswas true only for participants who were acquaintances with theexperimenter and could see the experimenter during the study in noother conditions was the percentage of scores greater than chance.

DISCUSSION

Thestudy provides significant main effect of vision such that higherpercentage of recognition score was produced when the participantcould see the experimenter than when the participant could not seethe experimenter.

Additionally,the Post-hoc tests supported that the difference between the avertedgaze and direct gaze conditions was significant only for participantswho were acquaintances with the experimenter and not for participantswho had a close relationship with the experimenter.

Thestudy supported the predictions that direct gaze enhances personrecognition since encoding of information is easier in such instances(mason et al., 2010). The study further supports Mason et al., 2010findings when they conclude that a person’s direction of gaze(either direct or averted) would impact his or her subsequentmemorability, such that recognition is enhanced for targetspreviously displaying direct gaze.

Thisstudy finding is significant as they extend into the recent studiesinto the effects of gaze direction on the effectiveness of socialcognitive functioning (Campbell et al., 1996). This means that directgaze not only facilitates a person understanding but also increasesthe memorability of stimulus targets as established in this study.

Thestudy had some limitations which may have affected the final outcome.For instance, electrical noise can be a challenge during therecording of EEG data. When setting up the experiment room, andregularly all through data collection, it is important to check noiselevels using a gauss meter which is sensitive to electrical noisefrequency emitted by power lines, computers, and other electricalappliances. Alternatively, one can collect EEG data in anelectrically shielded room or chamber.

CONCLUSION

EEGexperiment data collection sessions vary extensively, depending onthe number of trials, and the capability of participants to relaxmuscles, desist from blinking, and stay alert during the experimentsession. Mostly during EEG experiments, the number of participantsrange between 16 to 20 participants per group or condition ofinterest, though the number of participants varies based on number oftrials collected per participant, and the size of effect beingtested. So as to determine the necessary number of trials and numberof participants to be present during the experiment, powercalculations should be performed during the experimental designphase. Carrying out a review of the literature appropriate to thequestion of interest will in addition give an idea of the number oftrails/participants to be included.

Inthe above EEG experiment, 20 participants took part in the studywhich led to the following conclusions. The study supports that aperson’s direction of gaze (either direct or averted) would impacthis or her consequent memorability, this means that recognition isalways enhanced for targets previously displaying direct gaze.

Fasterdetection of faces that are turned towards oneself may be due to thesocial importance of these stimuli, but it may also be due tofeatures that are not social but facilitate detection. Low-levelvisual features differ between faces turned towards the viewer andfaces turned slightly away this is most in terms of symmetry. Thisis because this human visual system is highly sensitive to and mayplay a role in unconscious perception. Inverted upright faces breakthrough interocular suppression faster than inverted faces.

Aface facing oneself has a different and usually greater socialmeaning than a face turned away as it signals interest, the wish tocatch one’s attention, the intent to engage in a socialcommunication, or a potential threat. The processing of faces turnedtowards the viewer may reflect a detector for this sociallysignificant feature that operates in the absence of visual awarenessand selectively biases attention to other individuals in theenvironment whose attention is directed at oneself information thatis important for social behaviour.

REFERENCE

Mason,M. F., Hood, B. M., &amp Macrae, C. N. (2004). Lookinto my eyes: Gaze direction and person memory.

APPENDIX:Data Table

&nbsp

N170

&nbsp

&nbsp

LPP

&nbsp

&nbsp

PARTICIPANT

DIRECT

AVERTED

DIRECT

AVERTED

DIRECT (Average)

AVERTED(Average)

DIRECT

AVERTED

DIRECT

AVERTED

DIRECT (Average)

AVERTED (Average)

&nbsp

T5

T5

T6

T6

&nbsp

&nbsp

CZ

CZ

PZ

PZ

&nbsp

&nbsp

1

-8.6

-6.2

-12.9

-8.3

-10.75

-7.25

12

13.4

14.2

13.7

13.1

13.55

2

-7.8

-6.4

-9.2

-4.8

-8.5

-5.6

13.5

12.5

13.2

18.5

13.35

15.5

3

-7.8

-6.8

-10

-6.2

-8.9

-6.5

14.2

13.2

13.8

13.2

14

13.2

4

-9.4

-7.2

-10.2

-6.5

-9.8

-6.85

11.7

12.8

10.9

10.4

11.3

11.6

5

-6.4

-4.4

-8.1

-4.9

-7.25

-4.65

9.8

10.7

12.8

15.5

11.3

13.1

6

-5.5

-4.3

-10.3

-5.9

-7.9

-5.1

12.5

10.7

12.2

9.8

12.35

10.25

7

-8.9

-7.4

-10.9

-7.1

-9.9

-7.25

14.3

13.2

14.9

9.2

14.6

11.2

8

-9.9

-8.6

-9.9

-6.4

-9.9

-7.5

13.8

14.8

14.7

11

14.25

12.9

9

-8.4

-6.2

-9.9

-5.3

-9.15

-5.75

15.2

13.8

12.6

12.8

13.9

13.3

10

-7.7

-5.9

-10.8

-6.2

-9.25

-6.05

8.7

9.1

6.9

8.9

7.8

9

11

-7.8

-5.8

-10.7

-6.4

-9.25

-6.1

10.9

9.8

7.8

11.7

9.35

10.75

12

-7.8

-6.8

-9.4

-5.7

-8.6

-6.25

11.7

10.6

12.2

11.8

11.95

11.2

13

-8.8

-7.1

-11.8

-8

-10.3

-7.55

12.8

13.1

13.1

12

12.95

12.55

14

-7

-5.1

-9.3

-6.9

-8.15

-6

11.9

13.7

14

13

12.95

13.35

15

-8.6

-5.6

-11.1

-7

-9.85

-6.3

13.4

12.8

11.8

14.2

12.6

13.5

16

-6.8

-6.5

-7.9

-4.2

-7.35

-5.35

16.5

15.5

15.1

12

15.8

13.75

17

-6.3

-4.9

-8.3

-4.3

-7.3

-4.6

9.8

10.5

10.4

12

10.1

11.25

18

-9.7

-8

-10.2

-4.9

-9.95

-6.45

14.8

12.8

12.6

13.7

13.7

13.25

19

-9.7

-7.1

-11.8

-6.3

-10.75

-6.7

12.6

13.7

13.7

13.8

13.15

13.75

20

-8

-6.9

-11.7

-6.2

-9.85

-6.55

12.2

10.6

15.7

15.2

13.95

12.9

&nbsp

&nbsp

&nbsp

&nbsp

&nbsp

-182.65

-124.35

&nbsp

&nbsp

&nbsp

&nbsp

252.45

249.85

Figure1

Figure1: This figure shows the mean recognition scores for the differenttypes of gazes under the two components