Emergent Perception of Gaze Direction Across Time

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To determine where another person is looking, the visual system engages a process of emergent integration, pooling information across space from both the head and eyes. Gaze is dynamic, however, and in order to achieve a temporally stabilized metric of a person’s direction of attention, this integrative process might also occur across time. Here, we tested and confirmed this prediction. Even when seen separately and in succession, the rotation of a head attracted the perceived gaze of a pair of eyes. This integration depended on temporal continuity—attraction decayed with longer delays between the face parts and prolonged viewing of the head reduced integration. Nevertheless, gaze integration persisted across delays of 2 s and even occurred against a backdrop of changing emotional expression. Gaze is a complex feature that orchestrates social interactions over time. Our results demonstrate that the representation and perception of emergent gaze is dynamic as well.

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