Electrophysiological responses to violations of expectation from eye gaze and arrow cues

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Isolating processes within the brain that are specific to human behavior is a key goal for social neuroscience. The current research was an attempt to test whether recent findings of enhanced negative ERPs in response to unexpected human gaze are unique to eye gaze stimuli by comparing the effects of gaze cues with the effects of an arrow cue. ERPs were recorded while participants (N = 30) observed a virtual actor or an arrow that gazed (or pointed) either toward (object congruent) or away from (object incongruent) a flashing checkerboard. An enhanced negative ERP (N300) in response to object incongruent compared to object congruent trials was recorded for both eye gaze and arrow stimuli. The findings are interpreted as reflecting a domain general mechanism for detecting unexpected events.

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