Gender and facial dominance in gaze cuing: When emotional context matters in the eyes that we follow
Ohlsen, G., Van Zoest, W., & Van Vugt, M. (2013). Gender and facial dominance in gaze cuing: When emotional context matters in the eyes that we follow. PLOS-One.
Gaze following is a socio-cognitive process that provides adaptive information about potential threats and opportunities in the individual’s environment. The aim of the present study was to investigate the potential interaction between gaze cuing and facial dominance in a threat context. We studied gaze following through the gaze cuing paradigm, which provides a measure of how quickly participants respond to targets in locations cued by the gaze of others. Critically, we primed individuals with pictures of threat or no threat prior to the gaze-cue task to induce either a pleasant and safe or hostile and dangerous environment. In the experiment, the gaze cue was either a dominant male face or a non-dominant female face. Findings revealed that the primed emotional context critically influenced the gaze cuing effect for the gendered faces. While a gaze cue was effective across all conditions for the male face, the female face was being followed in the safe but not in the dangerous context. This research suggests an implicit context-dependent followership bias which carries implications for research on social cognition, social coordination, and leadership.