The empathic gaze and how to find it: eye-gaze behaviour to expressions of emotion

Cowan, David Gary (2015). The empathic gaze and how to find it: eye-gaze behaviour to expressions of emotion PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.843

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
s4107683_phd_final_submission.pdf Thesis (open access) application/pdf 2.59MB 179

Author Cowan, David Gary
Thesis Title The empathic gaze and how to find it: eye-gaze behaviour to expressions of emotion
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.843
Publication date 2015-09-14
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Eric Vanman
Mark Nielsen
Total pages 91
Total colour pages 2
Total black and white pages 89
Language eng
Subjects 170113 Social and Community Psychology
170101 Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology)
Formatted abstract
The quality and depth of human social interaction often depends upon the development of appropriate empathic responses. Eye contact has also been shown to play an important role in social interaction. Atypical eye contact and eye-gaze patterns exist as features of some psychological disorders such as autism, where empathic responses can be compromised and the capacity for effective social interaction hampered. In this thesis, I employed a novel eye-tracking paradigm and used dynamic emotional videos as stimuli to investigate the association between empathic response and eye-gaze within a typical population. The overarching aim was to investigate whether variation in our empathic response depends upon the gaze pattern we use to look at faces. I also investigated how eye-gaze patterns may vary across different facial expressions. For example, does sadness attract greater eye-gaze than other facial expressions, and is empathy connected to our ability to effectively use our gaze to accurately identify facial expression? Lastly, I examined how adult crying may affect eye-gaze and empathy, and by using an explicit behavioural measure I examined how pro-sociality may be affected by the observation of tearful faces. Three eye-tracking studies were conducted to investigate these emotional phenomena. Study 1 sought to establish the relationship between empathy and eye-gaze patterns to the eye region of the face and determine whether a sad expression amplifies those eye-gaze patterns compared to a neutral expression. The findings revealed a strong positive association between empathic concern and dwell-time percentage to the eye-region. In addition, a greater percentage of gaze dwell-time to the eye-region was found for a sad dynamic video than for a neutral dynamic video. Study 2 examined how gaze to the eye-region may change across varying facial expressions and to determine how gaze and empathy may relate to facial expression identification accuracy. In this study, however, no relationships between empathy, gaze and emotion identification accuracy were found. Yet, the expressions of sadness and anger attracted more gaze dwell-time to the eye-region than other emotional expressions. Study 3 investigated how empathy may be associated with the gaze patterns employed by humans when watching expressions of sadness. Moreover, it examined how the presence of tears may alter gaze in association with empathic response. A behavioural measure in the form of a charity donation task was employed to examine how expressions of sadness affect explicit prosocial behaviour. No relationship between empathy and dwell-time was found and dwell-time did not increase when participants viewed tearful faces. However, in terms of prosociality, a relationship was seen between empathy and feelings of emotional connectedness toward the person to whom most money was donated. Although the three studies produced varying results, collectively they provide support for the idea that empathy and eye-gaze are connected. Stimuli development, in terms of best practice in the elicitation and continuing engagement of empathy, and eye-gaze interaction remains an ongoing challenge for studies such as these. The findings reported in this thesis provide a better understanding of the empathy puzzle.
Keyword Eyetracking
Gaze patterns
Adult crying
Emotional facial expressions

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Fri, 04 Sep 2015, 12:25:57 EST by Mr David Cowan on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service