Perceptual integration of head and eye cues to gaze direction in schizophrenia

Colin J. Palmer*, Nathan Caruana, Colin W. G. Clifford, Kiley J. Seymour

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    21 Downloads (Pure)


    The perceptual mechanisms that underlie social experience in schizophrenia are increasingly becoming a target of empirical research. In the context of low-level vision, there is evidence for a reduction in the integration of sensory features in schizophrenia (e.g. increased thresholds for contour detection and motion coherence). In the context of higher-level vision, comparable differences in the integration of sensory features of the face could in theory impair the recognition of important social cues. Here we examine how the sense of where other people are looking relies upon the integration of eye-region cues and head-region cues. Adults with schizophrenia viewed face images designed to elicit the 'Wollaston illusion', a perceptual phenomenon in which the perceived gaze direction associated with a given pair of eyes is modulated by the surrounding sensory context. We performed computational modelling of these psychophysical data to quantify individual differences in the use of facial cues to gaze direction. We find that adults with schizophrenia exhibit a robust perceptual effect whereby their sense of other people's direction of gaze is strongly biased by sensory cues relating to head orientation in addition to eye region information. These results indicate that the visual integration of facial cues to gaze direction in schizophrenia is intact, helping to constrain theories of reduced integrative processing in higher-level and lower-level vision. In addition, robust gaze processing was evident in the tested participants despite reduced performance on a theory of mind task designed to assess higher-level social cognition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number180885
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalRoyal Society Open Science
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. 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.


    • schizophrenia
    • visual integration
    • gaze perception
    • social cognition
    • theory of mind
    • Wollaston illusion


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