January - May, 2018

AGEING AND GAZE FOLLOWING

Both young and old participants are asked to complete a typical gaze following task that uses photographs of faces and schematic representations of faces looking to the left or to the right. During the task, participant's eyes are tracked in order to identify different viewing strategies between young and old participants towards the presented faces, or differences in eye movement errors as a result of in-congruent gaze signals.

Gaze following (or gaze cueing) tasks are used regularly for social cognition research. Evidence has shown that people tend to automatically follow the gaze of others, even when this might be detrimental to the task at hand. However, there is also some evidence suggesting that older participants are less susceptible to the automatic gaze following. 

It is not clear why this age effect might occur, perhaps older participants spend less time looking at the eyes? Perhaps older participants are just less prone to gaze following? By using eye tracking we can determine which viewing strategies our participants are using during the gaze following task. We will then be able to see if young and old participants differ in any way. We might expect that older participants look more to the mouth of the presented faces. 

In combination with eye tracking, we will also collect a large amount of background information. For example, if older participants do spend less time looking at the eyes, and more time looking at the mouth, then this could be due to hearing loss and lip reading. A background measure of auditory acuity might highlight such an effect. Additionally, simple tests of visual acuity and contrast sensitivity will allow us to compare gaze following with any impairments to vision. 

The reason for including schematic faces as well as photographs is to determine if the age effect is due to perceptual impairments. This means that older participants, who typically have poorer visual acuity, might not process the fine details of the face in the same way that younger participants do. Schematic faces remove some of the complexity in the face, making it easier to focus on the gaze cue. As such, schematic faces would reduce any age effect. 

Our first experiment in this project is quite an ambitious one, with a huge amount of data being collected. We are diving straight into some of the big questions, which should allow us to refine future experiments and focus on specific details. We are going to need a dedicated group of participants and are relying on you to help us out. If you are interested in taking part in this or any other experiment please let us know! Our contact details can be found in the tab at the bottom of this page, or in the header of any page of this website. You can also simply click "Get in touch" to be taken to our contact page. 

+44(0) 1224 274 457

School of Psychology,
William Guild Building,
University of Aberdeen,
King's College,
Aberdeen
AB24 3FX

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