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What Affects Social Attention? Social Presence, Eye Contact and Autistic Traits

Freeth, Megan and Foulsham, Tom and Kingstone, Alan (2013) 'What Affects Social Attention? Social Presence, Eye Contact and Autistic Traits.' PLoS One, 8 (1). e53286-e53286. ISSN 1932-6203

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Social understanding is facilitated by effectively attending to other people and the subtle social cues they generate. In order to more fully appreciate the nature of social attention and what drives people to attend to social aspects of the world, one must investigate the factors that influence social attention. This is especially important when attempting to create models of disordered social attention, e.g. a model of social attention in autism. Here we analysed participants' viewing behaviour during one-to-one social interactions with an experimenter. Interactions were conducted either live or via video (social presence manipulation). The participant was asked and then required to answer questions. Experimenter eye-contact was either direct or averted. Additionally, the influence of participant self-reported autistic traits was also investigated. We found that regardless of whether the interaction was conducted live or via a video, participants frequently looked at the experimenter's face, and they did this more often when being asked a question than when answering. Critical differences in social attention between the live and video interactions were also observed. Modifications of experimenter eye contact influenced participants' eye movements in the live interaction only; and increased autistic traits were associated with less looking at the experimenter for video interactions only. We conclude that analysing patterns of eye-movements in response to strictly controlled video stimuli and natural real-world stimuli furthers the field's understanding of the factors that influence social attention.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Analysis of variance; autism; behaviour; eye movements; eyes; face; social research; social systems
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 14 May 2014 09:52
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2022 14:11

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