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Gaze bias both reflects and influences preference


Emotions operate along the dimension of approach and aversion, and it is reasonable to assume that orienting behavior is intrinsically linked to emotionally involved processes such as preference decisions. Here we describe a gaze 'cascade effect' that was present when human observers were shown pairs of human faces and instructed to decide which face was more attractive. Their gaze was initially distributed evenly between the two stimuli, but then gradually shifted toward the face that they eventually chose. Gaze bias was significantly weaker in a face shape discrimination task. In a second series of experiments, manipulation of gaze duration, but not exposure duration alone, biased observers' preference decisions. We thus conclude that gaze is actively involved in preference formation. The gaze cascade effect was also present when participants compared abstract, unfamiliar shapes for attractiveness, suggesting that orienting and preference for objects in general are intrinsically linked in a positive feedback loop leading to the conscious choice.

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Figure 1: Results of Experiment 1.
Figure 2: Results of Experiment 1, two-session condition.


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We thank K. Sakai for the Fourier descriptor algorithm, B. Khurana, B. Sheth, J. Bhattacharya and M. Changizi for their comments on earlier drafts, and N. Afsarmanesh for experimental assistance. This project was partly supported by the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, (C) 14510164) and Genesis Research Institute.

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Correspondence to Shinsuke Shimojo.

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Supplementary Fig. 1.

Block diagram of our dual contribution model. The two inputs, I1 and I2, are integrated in the decision module and compared with a "consciousness threshold" T; when T is reached the decision is made. Feedback from the decision module into the structures from which the inputs originate enhances their respective signals. When the task involves attractiveness, the feedback becomes positive, through the interaction between exposure and preferential looking. It is this positive feedback loop that makes the critical difference in gaze between preference and other tasks. The dashed feedback line into the cognitive assessment systems illustrates the general belief that cognitive representations flexible yet stable, thus cannot be changed easily by short-term exposure. (PDF 5 kb)

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Shimojo, S., Simion, C., Shimojo, E. et al. Gaze bias both reflects and influences preference. Nat Neurosci 6, 1317–1322 (2003).

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