Look into my eyes and I will see you: Unconscious processing of human gaze

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (4):1703-1710 (2012)
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Abstract

This study examines whether human gaze lacking the confounding factor of eye whites can be processed unconsciously and explores the critical aspects for such process. Utilizing the continuous flash suppression paradigm, a schematic face—with direct or averted gaze, and with neutral, fearful or happy expressions—was presented to one eye while dynamic masks rendered it invisible to the other eye. Schematic faces were used to avoid unwanted influence from salient eye whites. Participants’ detection time of anything other than the masks was used as an index of unconscious processing time. Faster detection was found for faces with direct gaze than those with averted gaze. However, there was no difference between detection times for different facial expressions and upright-face, inverted-face, and eyes-only conditions . These results confirm that, with schematic faces, gaze can be processed unconsciously regardless of facial expression, and eyes alone are sufficient for such process

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