Princeton University Library Catalog

Human Gaze-Following Behavior in Natural Environments: Rearwards transfer of gaze-following and mediation of gaze-following in groups by emotional expression

Chong, Andrew [Browse]
Senior thesis
Couzin, Iain [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology [Browse]
Class year:
59 pages
Restrictions note:
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note:
Observation and interpretation of others’ visual attention can be highly beneficial. Humans seem to be particularly well-adapted for gaze-following: adult humans are capable of performing a host of cognitively-complex gaze-based tasks, and the unique appearance of the human eye may have evolved to enhance social transmission of gaze. We present two studies investigating gaze-following behaviors amongst human pedestrians in a natural environment. In the first study, we placed a stimulus in a bi-directional corridor to attract and record the visual attention of passers-by. We found that pedestrians were more likely to follow the gazes of pedestrians traveling in the same direction in front of them than the gazes of those traveling toward them. Pedestrians were actually less likely to gaze at the stimulus during the brief period after oncoming pedestrians had looked at the stimulus. These findings suggest that social context can strongly affect gazefollowing behavior and that pedestrians use gaze-following to obtain situationally-relevant environmental information. In the second study, we added a confederate to the experimental design of the first study who provided an emotional expression (neutral/control, happy, suspicious, or afraid) in combination with a gaze targeting the stimulus. We found that pedestrians in groups increased gaze-following when shown the suspicious and fearful expressions and decreased gaze-following when shown the neutral and happiness expressions. In contrast, exposure to emotional expressions did not affect gazefollowing for solitary pedestrians. Our findings support the many-eyes hypothesis 6 and indicate that grouping helps humans to collectively distinguish social cues indicating danger from irrelevant environmental information.