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Department of Psychology

Staff

Publication details for Dr Daniel Smith

Morgan, Emma J., Freeth, Megan & Smith, Daniel T. (2018). Mental State Attributions Mediate the Gaze Cueing Effect. Vision 2(1): 11.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Understanding the mental states of our social partners allows us to successfully interact with the world around us. Mental state attributions are argued to underpin social attention, and have been shown to modulate attentional orienting to social cues. However, recent research has disputed this claim, arguing that this effect may arise as an unintentional side effect of study design, rather than through the involvement of mentalising processes. This study therefore aimed to establish whether the mediation of gaze cueing by mental state attributions generalises beyond the specific experimental paradigm used in previous research. The current study used a gaze cueing paradigm within a change detection task, and the gaze cue was manipulated such that participants were aware that the cue-agent was only able to ‘see’ in one condition. The results revealed that participants were influenced by the mental state of the cue-agent, and were significantly better at identifying if a change had occurred on valid trials when they believed the cue-agent could ‘see’. The computation of the cue-agent’s mental state therefore mediated the gaze cueing effect, demonstrating that the modulation of gaze cueing by mental state attributions generalises to other experimental paradigms.