Trusting the Looks of Others: Gaze Effects of Faces in Social Settings

Authors/others:Kaisler, Raphaela Elisabeth; Leder, Helmut
Abstract:Eye gaze is an important social cue in human communication that serves as a predictor of changes in attention, indicates social interest, and even affects the evaluation of objects that have been looked at. However, it needs to be shown how this strong nonverbal signal affects social and aesthetic evaluations in social settings. In this study, we presented natural scenes with two faces in three gaze conditions showing different directions of gaze. Participants evaluated faces that were looked at or not, that showed direct or averted gaze, for attractiveness (aesthetic) as well as trustworthiness (social). In Experiment 1, faces looking directly at the perceiver were rated as more attractive and as more trustworthy. In Experiment 2, when the direct gaze condition was omitted, faces that were looked at by another face were judged as more trustworthy. In Experiment 3a, participants did not remember the directions of gaze of two faces, demonstrating the dependence of the judgement on the actual situation and excluding a memory explanation. In Experiment 3b, we confirmed that these gaze effects depend on the direction of gaze and not the mere presence of another person. Our findings show how gazing in real world settings affects social and aesthetic evaluations.
Date of publication:8.2016
Journal title:Perception
Peer reviewed:true
Publication Type:Article