UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The role of cognitive load in modulating social looking: a mobile eye tracking study Bianchi, Laura J; Kingstone, Alan; Risko, Evan F


The effect of cognitive load on social attention was examined across three experiments in a live pedestrian passing scenario (Experiments 1 and 2) and with the same scenario presented as a video (Experiment 3). In all three experiments, the load was manipulated using an auditory 2-back task. While the participant was wearing a mobile eye-tracker, the participant’s fixation behavior toward a confederate was recorded and analyzed based on temporal proximity from the confederate (near or far) and the specific regions of the confederate being observed (i.e., head or body). In Experiment 1 we demonstrated an effect of cognitive load such that there was a lower proportion of fixations and time spent fixating toward the confederate in the load condition. A similar pattern of results was found in Experiment 2 when a within-subject design was used. In Experiment 3, which employed a less authentic social situation (i.e., video), a similar effect of cognitive load was observed. Collectively, these results suggest attentional resources play a central role in social attentional behaviors in both authentic (real-world) and less authentic (video recorded) situations.

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