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Typical and Atypical Processing of Gaze

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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01218

Investigating eye contact effect on people’s name retrieval in normal ageing and in Alzheimer’s disease

 Desirée Lopis1, 2* and Laurence Conty1, 2
  • 1Laboratory of Human and Artificial Cognition, France
  • 2Université Paris Nanterre, France

Difficulty in recalling people’s name is one of the most universally experienced changes in old age and would also constitute one of the earliest symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Direct gaze, i.e. another individual’s gaze directed to the observer that leads to eye contact, has been shown to improve memory for faces and concomitant verbal information. Here we investigated whether this effect extends to memory for Face-Name association and can thus enhance names’ retrieval in normal ageing and in AD, at the early stage of the disease. Twenty AD patients, 20 older adults and 25 young adults participated in our study. Subjects were presented with faces displaying either direct or averted gaze in association with a name presented orally. They were then asked to perform a surprise recognition test for each pair of stimuli, in a sequential fashion (i.e. first categorizing a face as old or new and then associating a name using a forced-choice procedure). Results showed that direct gaze does not improve memory for Face-Name association. Yet, we observed an overall direct gaze memory effect over faces and names independently, across our populations, showing that eye contact enhances the encoding of concomitantly presented stimuli. Our results are the first empirical evidence that eye contact benefits memory throughout the course of ageing and lead to better delimit the actual power of eye contact on memory.

Keywords: Face-name memory, Associative Memory, Eye contact effects, Ageing, Alzheimer ' s disease

Received: 22 Nov 2018; Accepted: 08 May 2019.

Edited by:

Chris Ashwin, University of Bath, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Gillian Slessor, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
George Stothart, University of Bath, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2019 Lopis and Conty. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mrs. Desirée Lopis, Laboratory of Human and Artificial Cognition, Paris, France,