The Effects of Genuine Eye Contact on Visuospatial and Selective Attention

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We investigated performance in a visuospatial discrimination task and selective attention task (Stroop task) while a live person’s direct or averted gaze was presented as a task-irrelevant contextual stimulus. Based on previous research, we expected that response times to peripherally presented targets (Experiment 1) and to the Stroop stimuli (Experiment 2) would be longer in the context of direct versus averted gaze. Contrary to our expectations, the direct gaze context resulted in faster discrimination of visual targets and faster performance in the Stroop task compared with the averted gaze context. We propose that the observed results are explained by enhanced arousal elicited by genuine eye contact.

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