Follow my eyes: the gaze of politicians reflexively captures the gaze of ingroup voters

PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25117. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025117. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


Studies in human and non-human primates indicate that basic socio-cognitive operations are inherently linked to the power of gaze in capturing reflexively the attention of an observer. Although monkey studies indicate that the automatic tendency to follow the gaze of a conspecific is modulated by the leader-follower social status, evidence for such effects in humans is meager. Here, we used a gaze following paradigm where the directional gaze of right- or left-wing Italian political characters could influence the oculomotor behavior of ingroup or outgroup voters. We show that the gaze of Berlusconi, the right-wing leader currently dominating the Italian political landscape, potentiates and inhibits gaze following behavior in ingroup and outgroup voters, respectively. Importantly, the higher the perceived similarity in personality traits between voters and Berlusconi, the stronger the gaze interference effect. Thus, higher-order social variables such as political leadership and affiliation prepotently affect reflexive shifts of attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior
  • Eye Movements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Personality
  • Politics*
  • Psychology, Social*
  • Reflex*
  • Saccades