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Stronger reactivity to social gaze in virtual reality compared to a classical laboratory environment

Rubo, Marius; Gamer, Matthias (2021). Stronger reactivity to social gaze in virtual reality compared to a classical laboratory environment. British Journal of Psychology, 112 (1), pp. 301-314. 10.1111/bjop.12453

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People show a robust tendency to gaze at other human beings when viewing images or videos, but were also found to relatively avoid gaze at others in several real-world situations. This discrepancy, along with theoretical considerations, spawned doubts about the appropriateness of classical laboratory-based experimental paradigms in social attention research. Several researchers instead suggested the use of immersive virtual scenarios in eliciting and measuring naturalistic attentional patterns, but the field, struggling with methodological challenges, still needs to establish the advantages of this approach. Here, we show using eye-tracking in a complex social scenario displayed in virtual reality that participants show enhanced attention towards the face of an avatar at near distance and demonstrate an increased reactivity towards her social gaze as compared to participants who viewed the same scene on a computer monitor. The present study suggests that reactive virtual agents observed in immersive virtual reality can elicit natural modes of information processing and can help to conduct ecologically more valid experiments while maintaining high experimental control.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

PHBern Contributor:

Rubo, Marius






Jessica Brunner

Date Deposited:

16 Feb 2023 16:36

Last Modified:

17 Apr 2023 09:16

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Virtual Reality, Social Attention




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