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Wiese, Eva; Wykowska, Agnieszka; Müller, Hermann J. (2014): What We Observe Is Biased by What Other People Tell Us: Beliefs about the Reliability of Gaze Behavior Modulate Attentional Orienting to Gaze Cues.
In: PLOS ONE 9(4), e94529


For effective social interactions with other people, information about the physical environment must be integrated with information about the interaction partner. In order to achieve this, processing of social information is guided by two components: a bottom-up mechanism reflexively triggered by stimulus-related information in the social scene and a top-down mechanism activated by task-related context information. In the present study, we investigated whether these components interact during attentional orienting to gaze direction. In particular, we examined whether the spatial specificity of gaze cueing is modulated by expectations about the reliability of gaze behavior. Expectations were either induced by instruction or could be derived from experience with displayed gaze behavior. Spatially specific cueing effects were observed with highly predictive gaze cues, but also when participants merely believed that actually non-predictive cues were highly predictive. Conversely, cueing effects for the whole gazed-at hemifield were observed with non-predictive gaze cues, and spatially specific cueing effects were attenuated when actually predictive gaze cues were believed to be non-predictive. This pattern indicates that (i) information about cue predictivity gained from sampling gaze behavior across social episodes can be incorporated in the attentional orienting to social cues, and that (ii) beliefs about gaze behavior modulate attentional orienting to gaze direction even when they contradict information available from social episodes.