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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01913

Inferring interactivity from gaze patterns during triadic person-object-agent interactions

  • 1Unit of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Research Centre Jülich, Germany
  • 2Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Cologne, Germany
  • 3Translational Neuroscience in Psychiatry and Neurology, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen, Germany
  • 4Department of Communication, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University, United States

Observing others’ gaze informs us about relevant matters in the environment. Humans’ sensitivity to gaze cues and our ability to use this information to focus our own attention is crucial to learning, social coordination and survival. Gaze can also be a deliberate social signal which captures and directs the gaze of others towards an object of interest. In the current study, we investigated whether the intention to actively communicate one’s own attentional focus can be inferred from the dynamics of gaze alone. We used a triadic gaze interaction paradigm based on the recently proposed classification of attentional states and respective gaze patterns in person-object-person interactions, the so-called “social gaze space” (SGS). Twenty-eight participants interacted with a computer controlled virtual agent while they assumed to interact with a real human. During the experiment, the virtual agent engaged in various gaze patterns which were determined by the agent’s attentional communicative state, as described by the concept of SGS. After each interaction, participants were asked to judge whether the other person was trying to deliberately interact with them. Results show that participants were able to infer the communicative intention solely from the agent’s gaze behavior. The results substantiate claims about the pivotal role of gaze in social coordination and relationship formation. Our results further reveal that social expectations are reflected in differential responses to the displayed gaze patterns and may be crucial for impression formation during gaze-based interaction. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to document the experience of interactivity in continuous and contingent triadic gaze interactions.

Keywords: social gaze, joint attention, Eye Contact, triadic interaction, Nonverbal Communication, social psychology, human-agent interaction

Received: 23 Apr 2019; Accepted: 05 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Jording, Hartz, Bente, Schulte-Rüther and Vogeley. 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: Mr. Mathis Jording, Unit of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, 52425, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, m.jording@fz-juelich.de