New perspectives in gaze sensitivity research

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Davidson, Gabrielle L.
Clayton, Nicola S.
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Springer US
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Attending to where others are looking is thought to be of great adaptive benefit for animals when avoiding predators and interacting with group members. Many animals have been reported to respond to the gaze of others, by co-orienting their gaze with group members (gaze following) and/or responding fearfully to the gaze of predators or competitors (i.e., gaze aversion). Much of the literature has focused on the cognitive underpinnings of gaze sensitivity, namely whether animals have an understanding of the attention and visual perspectives in others. Yet there remain several unanswered questions regarding how animals learn to follow or avoid gaze and how experience may influence their behavioral responses. Many studies on the ontogeny of gaze sensitivity have shed light on how and when gaze abilities emerge and change across development, indicating the necessity to explore gaze sensitivity when animals are exposed to additional information from their environment as adults. Gaze aversion may be dependent upon experience and proximity to different predator types, other cues of predation risk, and the salience of gaze cues. Gaze following in the context of information transfer within social groups may also be dependent upon experience with group-members; therefore we propose novel means to explore the degree to which animals respond to gaze in a flexible manner, namely by inhibiting or enhancing gaze following responses. We hope this review will stimulate gaze sensitivity research to expand beyond the narrow scope of investigating underlying cognitive mechanisms, and to explore how gaze cues may function to communicate information other than attention.
Gaze sensitivity , Attention attribution , Perspective taking , Gaze following , Gaze aversion , Communication
Davidson, G. L. and Clayton, N. S. (2016) 'New perspectives in gaze sensitivity research', Learning & Behavior, 44(1), pp. 9-17. doi: 10.3758/s13420-015-0204-z