Recently, a student of mine (Felix Süßenbach, now at the University of Edinburgh) and I published a little study on gaze-cueing, and how it is moderated by the trustworthiness of the gazing person.
In a nutshell, although instructed to ignore the gaze, participants shifted their attention into the direction where another person looked at (–> this is the well-established gaze-cueing effect), but more so when the sender was introduced as being trustworthy (–> which is the new result)
We also found some exploratory evidence that the trait anxiety of participants moderates that effect, in a way that highly anxious participants did not differentiate between trustworthy and untrustworthy senders: Highly anxious participants always followed the other person’s gaze. For low anxious participants, in contrast, the gaze-cueing effect was reduced to zero for untrustworthy senders. (This exploratory finding, of course, awaits cross-validation).
The paper, raw data, and R script for the analyses are on OSF.
Süßenbach, F., & Schönbrodt, F. (2014). Not afraid to trust you: Trustworthiness moderates gaze cueing but not in highly anxious participants. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 26, 670–678. doi:10.1080/20445911.2014.945457
Publisher’s website: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/20445911.2014.945457#.VEn3GVu17sI
Abstract Gaze cueing (i.e., the shifting of person B’s attention by following person A’s gaze) is closely linked with human interaction and learning. To make the most of this connection, researchers need to investigate possible moderators enhancing or reducing the extent of this attentional shifting. In this study we used a gaze cueing paradigm to demonstrate that the perceived trustworthiness of a cueing person constitutes such a moderator for female participants. Our results show a significant interaction between perceived trustworthiness and the response time trade-off between valid and invalid gaze cues [gaze cueing effect (GCE)], as manifested in greater following of a person’s gaze if this person was trustworthy as opposed to the following of an untrustworthy person’s gaze. An additional exploratory analysis showed potentially moderating influences of trait-anxiety on this interaction (p = .057). The affective background of the experiment (i.e., using positive or negative target stimuli) had no influence.