Developing Dynamic Gaze Processing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Experimental Psychology


The amount of time we spend looking at something can reflect our level of interest. Humans can read what people are thinking by watching other s gaze and this ability develops over the course of childhood. However, some atypical children may be impaired in reading other people s gaze and this could affect their ability to know what others are thinking. Here we investigate a video-based technique to explore this possibility as previous research had tended to use static images which do not give this crucial timing information.

Technical Summary

Gaze processing is a fundamental skill for determining not only the focus of another person?s attention but also aspects of what they may be thinking. For example, given a choice, prolonged gaze directed at a specific target is usually intepreted as an indication of preference. Most gaze processing takes place in complex social interactions and requires the ability to monitor where gaze is directed and for how long. In addition, the observer has to take into consideration contextual information such as what do they think the gazer is looking for and what are the various alternatives. This ability requires the capacity to coordinate processing incoming information with potential motivations and goals. In the past, we have found significant developmental improvement which appears to be related to increased ability of young children to ignore competing signals. However, such gaze skills are impaired in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder but are deemed to be spared in individuals with William?s syndrome. This research will expand our understanding of both typical and atypically developing individuals and the use of eye tracking during gaze processing promises to reveal where the source of difficulty lies. Namely, do individuals with impaired gaze processing fail to monitor where someone else focuses their attention.


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Description British Association Science Guildford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact BAS public science festival

Press & media
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009