Coordinating Cognition: The Costs and Benefits of Shared Gaze During Collaborative Search

Cognition. 2008 Mar;106(3):1465-77. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.05.012. Epub 2007 Jul 6.


Collaboration has its benefits, but coordination has its costs. We explored the potential for remotely located pairs of people to collaborate during visual search, using shared gaze and speech. Pairs of searchers wearing eyetrackers jointly performed an O-in-Qs search task alone, or in one of three collaboration conditions: shared gaze (with one searcher seeing a gaze-cursor indicating where the other was looking, and vice versa), shared-voice (by speaking to each other), and shared-gaze-plus-voice (by using both gaze-cursors and speech). Although collaborating pairs performed better than solitary searchers, search in the shared gaze condition was best of all: twice as fast and efficient as solitary search. People can successfully communicate and coordinate their searching labor using shared gaze alone. Strikingly, shared gaze search was even faster than shared-gaze-plus-voice search; speaking incurred substantial coordination costs. We conclude that shared gaze affords a highly efficient method of coordinating parallel activity in a time-critical spatial task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Cognition*
  • Communication
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Visual Perception*