Humans are experts in understanding social environments. What perceptual and cognitive processes enable such competent evaluation of social information? Here we show that environmental content is grouped into units of "social perception", which are formed automatically based on the attentional priority given to social information conveyed by eyes and faces. When asked to segment a clip showing a typical daily scenario, participants were remarkably consistent in identifying the boundaries of social events. Moreover, at those social event boundaries, participants' eye movements were reliably directed to actors' eyes and faces. Participants' indices of attention measured during the initial passive viewing, reflecting natural social behaviour, also showed a remarkable correspondence with overt social segmentation behaviour, reflecting the underlying perceptual organization. Together, these data show that dynamic information is automatically organized into meaningful social events on an ongoing basis, strongly suggesting that the natural comprehension of social content in daily life might fundamentally depend on this underlying grouping process.
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