Reduced gaze following and attention to heads when viewing a "Live" social scene

Nicola Jean Gregory, Beatriz Lopez, Gemma Graham, Paul Marshman, Sarah Bate, Niko Kargas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social stimuli are known to both attract and direct our attention, but most research on social attention has been conducted in highly controlled laboratory settings lacking in social context. This study examined the role of social context on viewing behaviour of participants whilst they watched a dynamic social scene, under three different conditions. In two social groups, participants believed they were watching a live webcam of other participants. The socially-engaged group believed they would later complete a group task with the people in the video, whilst the non-engaged group believed they would not meet the people in the scene. In a third condition, participants simply free-viewed the same video with the knowledge that it was pre-recorded, with no suggestion of a later interaction. Results demonstrated that the social context in which the stimulus was viewed significantly influenced viewing behaviour. Specifically, participants in the social conditions allocated less visual attention towards the heads of the actors in the scene and followed their gaze less than those in the free-viewing group. These findings suggest that by underestimating the impact of social context in social attention, researchers risk coming to inaccurate conclusions about how we attend to others in the real world.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Gregory et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro


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