Faces are processed in a configural manner (i.e., without decomposition into individual face features), an effect attributed to humans having a high degree of face processing expertise. However, even when perceiver expertise is accounted for, configural processing is subject to a number of influences, including the social relevance of a face. In the current research, we present two experiments that document the influence of eye-gaze direction (direct or averted) on configural encoding of faces. Experiment 1 uses a version of the composite face paradigm to investigate how eye-gaze influences configural encoding. The results indicate that averted gaze disrupts configural encoding compared to direct eye-gaze. Experiment 2 manipulates whether perceivers can engage in configural encoding using face-inversion, and finds the inversion effects are greater for faces with direct than averted-gaze. We interpret these results as evidence that averted eye-gaze signals that a face is subjectively unimportant, thereby disrupting configural encoding.
S.G. Young, Michael Slepian, J.P. Wilson, and K. Hugenberg
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Full Citation

Young, S.G., Michael Slepian, J.P. Wilson, and K. Hugenberg
. “Averted eye-gaze disrupts configural face encoding.”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
, (July 01, 2014):