Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

In 'Reading' A Gaze, What We Believe Changes What We See

Date:
June 26, 2009
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
In primates including ourselves, the ability to register where others are looking is key in social circles. And, according to a new report, the way our brains process gaze-direction is much more sophisticated than a simple eyes-right vs. eyes-left.

In primates including ourselves, the ability to register where others are looking is key in social circles. And, according to a new report published online on June 25th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, the way our brains process gaze-direction is much more sophisticated than a simple eyes-right versus eyes-left.

Related Articles


In fact, the way our brains code another's gaze-direction can hinge on what we already believe about that person's mental state, the new evidence shows.

"When we look at a face, it is not just a head or eyes pointing in some direction we see," said Greg Davis of the University of Cambridge. "Rather, our brain is coding another person's attention and intentions."

"It tells us that rather than being a passive process, social perception is very active," added Christoph Teufel, also of the University of Cambridge. "We do perceive social signals. But once we attribute a mental state to them, this in turn changes the sensory processing of that social signal. It's a two-way relationship."

Earlier studies in macaques revealed special neurons in the brain that fire in response to others' specific gaze-direction, Teufel and Davis explained. As evidence that humans share the same capacity, studies showed that people experience what are known as aftereffects, in which exposure to a person looking in a particular direction biases subsequent gaze-direction judgment the opposite way. For instance, if you saw one person looking left for a period of time and then saw someone looking straight at you, it would appear as if that second individual were looking farther off to the right. Such aftereffects are caused by a process known as adaptation, in which the sensitivity of neurons decreases after prolonged stimulation.

The new study shows that those gaze-direction aftereffects are, in almost all cases, essentially erased when onlookers believe (wrongly) that the person they are watching cannot actually see.

The researchers made the discovery by convincing observers that pre-recorded video sequences of an experimenter gazing left or right were a "live" video link to an adjacent room. The experimenter wore mirrored goggles that observers believed were either transparent, such that the person could see, or opaque, such that the person could not. The effects of adaptation were greatly enhanced when study participants observed experimenters wearing goggles they thought they could see through, they report.

"In summary," the researchers wrote, "our findings indicate a bi-directional relationship between gaze-processing and the system responsible for mental-state attribution. Previous studies have demonstrated that observed gaze-direction can be used to infer another person's mental states such as attention. Here we demonstrate that beliefs about another person's ability to see (and therefore attend) have in turn strong top-down effects on gaze processing." That interplay between social perception and social mentalistic beliefs "might point toward a more general effect of high-level mental-state attribution in facilitating and shaping the way in which social signals are processed on a lower level."

The findings could lead the way to a new understanding of what goes wrong in people with mental disorders such as autism, the researchers said. "It's going to be important to to understand whether people who are neurally atypical are doing this attribution in the same way," Davis said.

The researchers include Christoph Teufel, Dean M. Alexis, Helena Todd, Adam J. Lawrance-Owen, Nicola S. Clayton, and Greg Davis, of University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "In 'Reading' A Gaze, What We Believe Changes What We See." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090625133049.htm>.
Cell Press. (2009, June 26). In 'Reading' A Gaze, What We Believe Changes What We See. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090625133049.htm
Cell Press. "In 'Reading' A Gaze, What We Believe Changes What We See." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090625133049.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins