Direct Speaker Gaze Promotes Trust in Truth-Ambiguous Statements

PLoS One. 2016 Sep 19;11(9):e0162291. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162291. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

A speaker's gaze behaviour can provide perceivers with a multitude of cues which are relevant for communication, thus constituting an important non-verbal interaction channel. The present study investigated whether direct eye gaze of a speaker affects the likelihood of listeners believing truth-ambiguous statements. Participants were presented with videos in which a speaker produced such statements with either direct or averted gaze. The statements were selected through a rating study to ensure that participants were unlikely to know a-priori whether they were true or not (e.g., "sniffer dogs cannot smell the difference between identical twins"). Participants indicated in a forced-choice task whether or not they believed each statement. We found that participants were more likely to believe statements by a speaker looking at them directly, compared to a speaker with averted gaze. Moreover, when participants disagreed with a statement, they were slower to do so when the statement was uttered with direct (compared to averted) gaze, suggesting that the process of rejecting a statement as untrue may be inhibited when that statement is accompanied by direct gaze.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Comprehension*
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Reaction Time
  • Speech Perception
  • Trust*
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult

Grant support

SRS has been supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (http://www.dfg.de/en/), grant FOR1097. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.