Previous research has highlighted the pivotal role played by gaze detection and interpretation in the development of social cognition. Extending work of this kind, the present research investigated the effects of eye gaze on basic aspects of the person-perception process, namely, person construal and the extraction of category-related knowledge from semantic memory. It was anticipated that gaze direction would moderate the efficiency of the mental operations through which these social-cognitive products are generated. Specifically, eye gaze was expected to influence both the speed with which targets could be categorized as men and women and the rate at which associated stereotypic material could be accessed from semantic memory. The results of two experiments supported these predictions: Targets with nondeviated (i.e., direct) eye gaze elicited facilitated categorical responses. The implications of these findings for recent treatments of person perception are considered.
Macrae, C. Neil, Bruce Hood, A. B. Milne, A. C. Rowe, and Malia Mason. "Are you looking at me? Eye gaze and person perception." Psychological Science 13 (2002): 460-464.
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