The effects of social and symbolic cues: From the lab to the real world

Ioannidou, Flora (2020) The effects of social and symbolic cues: From the lab to the real world. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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The effects of social and symbolic cues: From the lab to the real world
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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
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Abstract

Previous studies of social attention have suggested that another person’s gaze direction automatically shifts attention in an observer. This has seemed to be a unique ability for gaze cues, but later this reflexive orientation of attention has also been found in another social (e.g., pointing hands) and symbolic (e.g., arrows) cues. Studies demonstrating these effects, however, have examined the effects of these cues under restricted conditions. Studies have shown cues predominantly at fixation and in isolation, on an otherwise empty background. These two conditions fail to reflect the conditions under which both social and symbolic cues are encountered in the real world. The present work therefore extended previous studies on social attention to more real-world like situations. As a first step, cues were embedded in natural scenes, but kept static, to examine the difference between an empty background and a natural context. Three conditions were tested: (1) free viewing with a single cue per scene; (2) free viewing with multiple, sometimes incompatible cues and (3) a visual search with a single cue per scene. In all three experiments, participants spent more time looking at the two social cues (people gazing or pointing) than the symbolic cue (an arrow sign), suggesting that the presence of another person is enough to draw the observer’s attention. While people drew attention, subsequent shifts of attention towards the cued direction were stronger for pointing cues and arrow, both of which aim to signal a direction. The next chapter moved one step further towards real world social attention by moving from static to dynamic cues (video clips). Participants performed one of two task: Free viewing and a memory task. Again, social cues drew observers’ attention. As for static cues, the gaze cues did not direct subsequent attention to the same extent as pointing cues did. The ultimate step towards studying social attention in the real world was made in the final chapter, where participants’ eye movements were tracked with a mobile eye tracker while they performed a search task in the presence of social and symbolic cues. The first experiment used cues printed on a piece of paper as stimuli, whereas the second experiment used real people. Possibly due to the search task, the cues were largely ignored and consequently did not elicit a strong cueing effect. From the three cues, pointing gestures most strongly drew observers’ attention and produced the strongest cueing effects. Combined, the findings of this thesis suggest that when explored under more realistic environments, gaze cues no longer shift people’s attention. Instead other cues more related to direction (e.g., pointing cues) seems to successfully direct the observers’ attention. In agreement with previous studies, when in a laboratory setting other people in the scene strongly attract attention. In the real world attention on the cues and cues’ effects are limited

Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:46272
Deposited On:31 Aug 2021 09:28

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