Recent studies suggest that covering the face inhibits the recognition of identity and emotional expressions. However, it might also make the eyes more salient, since they are a reliable index to orient our social and spatial attention. This study investigates (1) whether the pervasive interaction with people with face masks fostered by the COVID-19 pandemic modulates the processing of spatial information essential to shift attention according to other's eye-gaze direction (i.e., gaze-cueing effect: GCE), and (2) whether this potential modulation interacts with motor responses (i.e., Simon effect). Participants were presented with face cues orienting their gaze to a congruent or incongruent target letter location (gaze-cueing paradigm) while wearing a surgical mask (Mask), a patch (Control), or nothing (No-Mask). The task required to discriminate the identity of the lateralized target letters by pressing one of two lateralized response keys, in a corresponding or a non-corresponding position with respect to the target. Results showed that GCE was not modulated by the presence of the Mask, but it occurred in the No-Mask condition, confirming previous studies. Crucially, the GCE interacted with Simon effect in the Mask and Control conditions, though in different ways. While in the Mask condition the GCE emerged only when target and response positions corresponded (i.e., Simon-corresponding trials), in the Control condition it emerged only when they did not correspond (i.e., Simon-non-corresponding trials). These results indicate that people with face masks induce us to jointly orient our visual attention in the direction of the seen gaze (GCE) in those conditions resembling (or associated with) a general approaching behavior (Simon-corresponding trials). This is likely promoted by the fact that we tend to perceive wearing the mask as a personal safety measure and, thus, someone wearing the face mask is perceived as a trustworthy person. In contrast, people with a patch on their face can be perceived as more threatening, therefore inducing a GCE in those conditions associated with a general avoidance behavior (Simon-non-corresponding trials).

Wearing the face mask affects our social attention over space

Villani, Caterina
;
Scerrati, Elisa;Nicoletti, Roberto;Lugli, Luisa
2022

Abstract

Recent studies suggest that covering the face inhibits the recognition of identity and emotional expressions. However, it might also make the eyes more salient, since they are a reliable index to orient our social and spatial attention. This study investigates (1) whether the pervasive interaction with people with face masks fostered by the COVID-19 pandemic modulates the processing of spatial information essential to shift attention according to other's eye-gaze direction (i.e., gaze-cueing effect: GCE), and (2) whether this potential modulation interacts with motor responses (i.e., Simon effect). Participants were presented with face cues orienting their gaze to a congruent or incongruent target letter location (gaze-cueing paradigm) while wearing a surgical mask (Mask), a patch (Control), or nothing (No-Mask). The task required to discriminate the identity of the lateralized target letters by pressing one of two lateralized response keys, in a corresponding or a non-corresponding position with respect to the target. Results showed that GCE was not modulated by the presence of the Mask, but it occurred in the No-Mask condition, confirming previous studies. Crucially, the GCE interacted with Simon effect in the Mask and Control conditions, though in different ways. While in the Mask condition the GCE emerged only when target and response positions corresponded (i.e., Simon-corresponding trials), in the Control condition it emerged only when they did not correspond (i.e., Simon-non-corresponding trials). These results indicate that people with face masks induce us to jointly orient our visual attention in the direction of the seen gaze (GCE) in those conditions resembling (or associated with) a general approaching behavior (Simon-corresponding trials). This is likely promoted by the fact that we tend to perceive wearing the mask as a personal safety measure and, thus, someone wearing the face mask is perceived as a trustworthy person. In contrast, people with a patch on their face can be perceived as more threatening, therefore inducing a GCE in those conditions associated with a general avoidance behavior (Simon-non-corresponding trials).
2022
Villani, Caterina; D'Ascenzo, Stefania; Scerrati, Elisa; Ricciardelli, Paola; Nicoletti, Roberto; Lugli, Luisa
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/903046
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