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Title: How different cultures look at faces depends on the interpersonal context
Authors: Gobel, M
Chen, A
Richardson, D
Keywords: Social attention;Face perception;Eye movements;Interpersonal context;Culture
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Canadian Psychological Association
Citation: Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
Abstract: Culture can influence how we see and experience the world, and recent research shows that it even determines how we look at each other. Yet, most of these laboratory studies use images of faces that are deprived of any social context. In the real world, we do not only look at people’s faces to perceive who they are, but also in order to signal information back to them. It is unknown, therefore, within which interpersonal contexts cultural differences in looking at faces emerge. In the current study, we manipulated one aspect of the interpersonal context of faces: whether the target face either established mutual gaze looking directly into the camera as if talking to the viewer, or averted gaze slightly to the side as if talking to another person. East Asian and Western participants viewed target face videos while their eye movements were recorded. If cultural differences are exclusively related to encoding information from others, interpersonal context should not matter. However, if cultural differences are also the result of culturally specific expectations about how to appropriately interact with another person, then cultural differences should be modulated by whether the speaker seemingly addresses the viewer or another person. In support of the second hypothesis, we only find cultural differences in looking at faces in the mutual gaze condition. We speculate that cultural norms surrounding the use of gaze as a social signal may underlie previous findings of cultural differences in face perception.
ISSN: 1196-1961
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