Intact unconscious processing of eye contact in schizophrenia

Kiley Seymour*, Gillian Rhodes, Timo Stein, Robyn Langdon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The perception of eye gaze is crucial for social interaction, providing essential information about another person's goals, intentions, and focus of attention. People with schizophrenia suffer a wide range of social cognitive deficits, including abnormalities in eye gaze perception. For instance, patients have shown an increased bias to misjudge averted gaze as being directed toward them. In this study we probed early unconscious mechanisms of gaze processing in schizophrenia using a technique known as continuous flash suppression. Previous research using this technique to render faces with direct and averted gaze initially invisible reveals that direct eye contact gains privileged access to conscious awareness in healthy adults. We found that patients, as with healthy control subjects, showed the same effect: faces with direct eye gaze became visible significantly faster than faces with averted gaze. This suggests that early unconscious processing of eye gaze is intact in schizophrenia and implies that any misjudgments of gaze direction must manifest at a later conscious stage of gaze processing where deficits and/or biases in attributing mental states to gaze and/or beliefs about being watched may play a role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-19
Number of pages5
JournalSchizophrenia Research: Cognition
Volume3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Eye gaze
  • Self-referential processing
  • Social cognition
  • Unconscious processing
  • Visual perception

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