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How different cultures look at faces depends on the interpersonal context

Gobel, MS; Chen, A; Richardson, DC; (2017) How different cultures look at faces depends on the interpersonal context. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology , 71 (3) pp. 258-264. 10.1037/cep0000119. Green open access

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Abstract

Culture can influence how we see and experience the world, and recent research shows that it even determines how we look at each other. Yet, most of these laboratory studies use images of faces that are deprived of any social context. In the real world, we not only look at people's faces to perceive who they are, but also to signal information back to them. It is unknown, therefore, within which interpersonal contexts cultural differences in looking at faces emerge. In the current study, we manipulated one aspect of the interpersonal context of faces: whether the target face either established mutual gaze looking directly into the camera as if talking to the viewer or averted gaze slightly to the side as if talking to another person. East Asian and Western participants viewed target face videos while their eye movements were recorded. If cultural differences are exclusively related to encoding information from others, interpersonal context should not matter. However, if cultural differences are also the result of culturally specific expectations about how to appropriately interact with another person, then cultural differences should be modulated by whether the speaker seemingly addresses the viewer or another person. In support of the second hypothesis, we only find cultural differences in looking at faces in the mutual gaze condition. We speculate that cultural norms surrounding the use of gaze as a social signal may underlie previous findings of cultural differences in face perception.

Type: Article
Title: How different cultures look at faces depends on the interpersonal context
Location: Canada
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/cep0000119
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1037/cep0000119
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: social attention, face perception, eye movements, interpersonal context, culture
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10023431
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