Numerous studies on social attention have demonstrated that social cues receive prioritized sensory processing in the visual system (Birmingham et al., 2009; Cerf et al., 2007; End & Gamer, 2017; Flechsenhar et al., 2018). This prioritization of social cues appears to occur early and reflexively, as indicated by eye-tracking analyses conducted during 200 ms social cue presentations—a duration too brief for voluntary shifts of attention (Rösler et al., 2017).
In this study, we aim to gain further insights into the mechanisms underlying social attention by investigating the effects of competing reflexive and voluntary components of attention. To achieve this, we employ a gaze-contingent paradigm that has previously been shown to attenuate bottom-up driven mechanisms, placing a greater emphasis on voluntary control (Flechsenhar et al., 2018).
We hypothesize that gaze-contingent aversive events will induce avoidance of visual cues. Our paradigm incorporates both social and non-social visual stimuli presented in the four different corners of the screen, which are paired either with aversive events (CSneg) or rewards (CSpos). We will assess participants’ gazing behavior as well as autonomic responses, including pupillary, electrodermal, and cardiovascular reactions, during the acquisition trials and subsequent test trials.