Speaking and listening with the eyes: Gaze signaling during dyadic interactions

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Abstract

Cognitive scientists have long been interested in the role that eye gaze plays in social interactions. Previous research suggests that gaze acts as a signaling mechanism and can be used to control turn-taking behaviour. However, early research on this topic employed methods of analysis that aggregated gaze information across an entire trial (or trials), which masks any temporal dynamics that may exist in social interactions. More recently, attempts have been made to understand the temporal characteristics of social gaze but little research has been conducted in a natural setting with two interacting participants. The present study combines a temporally sensitive analysis technique with modern eye tracking technology to 1) validate the overall results from earlier aggregated analyses and 2) provide insight into the specific moment-to-moment temporal characteristics of turn-taking behaviour in a natural setting. Dyads played two social guessing games (20 Questions and Heads Up) while their eyes were tracked. Our general results are in line with past aggregated data, and using cross-correlational analysis on the specific gaze and speech signals of both participants we found that 1) speakers end their turn with direct gaze at the listener and 2) the listener in turn begins to speak with averted gaze. Convergent with theoretical models of social interaction, our data suggest that eye gaze can be used to signal both the end and the beginning of a speaking turn during a social interaction. The present study offers insight into the temporal dynamics of live dyadic interactions and also provides a new method of analysis for eye gaze data when temporal relationships are of interest.

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Ho, S., Foulsham, T., & Kingstone, A. (2015). Speaking and listening with the eyes: Gaze signaling during dyadic interactions. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136905

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