Social perception

Bristol Cognitive Development Centre has a number of academics studying a range of social perception. One of the main areas is Eye Gaze Processing and areas within this include attentional orienting, face processing and mental state attribution. These areas are detailed below.

Eye Gaze Processing

Main researchers: Prof. Bruce M. Hood (University of Bristol)

Collaborators: Dr. Shiri Einav (Oxford Brookes University), Dr. Erika Nurmsoo (University of Kent)

Child looking at a large TV

We are collaborating with Dr. Shiri Einav on children's sensitivity to gaze as a channel for communicating the mental state of others. In particular she demonstrated that 4-5yr-olds interpreted the amount of gaze directed towards an object relative to other objects as an indication of the preferred choice. In addition, she also examined 6-9yr-olds' ability to infer lying based on watching interviews where the person either maintained fixation or looked away frequently when answering questions. In both sets of experiments, she found that performance was greatly enhanced when children only had access to the gaze behaviour indicating that development involves an increased ability to focus on gaze and ignore distracting information. Both of these sets of studies have been published here.

Previously, we were awarded a 3-year MRC grant (G0700419, “Developing Dynamic Gaze Processing”) to extend this research into different contexts and populations. For example, can children use direction of gaze as an indicator of focus of fear? How do children use dynamic gaze to interpret gaze behaviour between individuals as signaling mutual liking? We will also be addressing these questions in atypical populations including Williams Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder who have differing profiles of social skills. To answer these questions we will be using a number of behavioral measures including eye-tracking using the Tobii system.