Social Attention in the Field
Much of the previous research on social approach-avoidance behavior has heavily relied on highly controlled experimental tasks (Risko et al., 2012; Chen et al., 2020). However, real-world overt behavior in field settings can significantly deviate from responses in artificial laboratory environments (Rubo et al., 2020; Großekathöfer et al., 2022). Therefore, this project utilized wearable technology, including mobile eye-tracking and ambulatory assessment of autonomic responses, to investigate physiological arousal and approach-avoidance behavior towards other individuals in pre-screened participants with varying social anxiety traits.
In the initial phase, we focused on natural exploration behavior outside of the controlled laboratory environment and examined movement trajectories, visual scanning patterns, and physiological responses concerning social anxiety and the mere presence of other individuals. In the second part of the study, participants engaged in a staged social interaction with a confederate, following a methodology similar to Rösler et al. (2021). In this context, we once again explored how trait markers of social anxiety influenced visual scanning patterns and physiological responses in social situations.
Finally, we were interested in determining whether the gaze-modulating effect of eye camouflage observed by Dudarev et al. (2022) could be extended to social anxiety, where socially anxious individuals adapt their gaze behavior to conform with social norms based on the visibility of their own eyes.
This study contributes to a more nuanced understanding of exploration behavior, social attention, and autonomic responses in the context of social anxiety, with the added advantage that the results are derived from realistic situations, enhancing their ecological validity.