Wu, D. W.-L., Bischof, W. F., and Kingstone, A. (2013). Looking while eating: The importance of the consequences of social interaction in social attention. Scientific Reports, 3,2356, DOI:10.1038/srep02356.
Recent studies have found that participants consistently look less at social stimuli in live situations than expected from conventional laboratory experiments, raising questions as to the cause for this discrepancy and concerns about the validity of typical studies. We tested the possibility that it is the consequences of a potential social interaction that dictates one's looking behaviour. By placing participants in a situation where the social consequences of interacting are congruent with social norms (sharing a meal), we find an increased preference for participants to look at each other. Dyads who were particularly interactive also looked more at the other person than dyads who did not interact. Recent landmark studies have shown that in real world settings people avoid looking at strangers, but we show that in a situation with a different social context the opposite holds true.
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