Gaze bias both reflects and influences preference

Nat Neurosci. 2003 Dec;6(12):1317-22. doi: 10.1038/nn1150. Epub 2003 Nov 9.


Emotions operate along the dimension of approach and aversion, and it is reasonable to assume that orienting behavior is intrinsically linked to emotionally involved processes such as preference decisions. Here we describe a gaze 'cascade effect' that was present when human observers were shown pairs of human faces and instructed to decide which face was more attractive. Their gaze was initially distributed evenly between the two stimuli, but then gradually shifted toward the face that they eventually chose. Gaze bias was significantly weaker in a face shape discrimination task. In a second series of experiments, manipulation of gaze duration, but not exposure duration alone, biased observers' preference decisions. We thus conclude that gaze is actively involved in preference formation. The gaze cascade effect was also present when participants compared abstract, unfamiliar shapes for attractiveness, suggesting that orienting and preference for objects in general are intrinsically linked in a positive feedback loop leading to the conscious choice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric