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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/27600

Title: Gaze Control as a Marker of Self-other Differentiation: Implications for Sociocognitive Functioning and Close Relationship Quality
Authors: Petrican, Raluca
Advisor: Moscovitch, Morris
Schimmack, Ulrich
Department: Psychology
Keywords: gaze following
enmeshment
Theory-of-mind
Working Memory
Relationship Satisfaction
Issue Date: 13-Jun-2011
Abstract: An individual`s eyes provide a wealth of information during social interactions. The present research investigates the social adjustment implications of one gaze behaviour, specifically, shared attention, which is the tendency to follow an interlocutor`s directed gaze to attend to the same object or location. Recent clinical research suggested that gaze control reflects the capacity to differentiate self from other at the attentional level, since patient populations with poor gaze control abilities (i.e., schizophrenic patients) were also found to exhibit difficulty in differentiating between the self and another agent. Four studies were conducted to examine whether flexible gaze following behavior, specifically the ability to inhibit gaze-following, when the situation warrants, would be positively linked with two markers of adaptive social functioning: sociocognitive abilities and self-close other(s) differentiation. Based on previous research that gaze cues linked to upright (but not inverted) faces trigger reflexive gaze following mechanisms, an upright face condition was used to assess social cueing mechanisms and an inverted face condition, as a control for non-social cueing mechanisms in a gaze control task with realistic (Study 2) and schematic faces (Studies 1, 3, and 4). Studies 1-4 showed that more flexible gaze following behavior predicted superior sociocognitive abilities, as indexed by higher capacity to infer the mental states of others in both young and older adults (Studies 1-3), as well as in clinical populations (i.e., Parkinson’s Disease [PD] patients, Study 4). Studies 2-4 further revealed that poorer gaze control predicted decreased self-close other differentiation in both younger and older adults. In Study 2, poorer gaze control performance characterized young adults from enmeshed family systems, which allow limited private space and emotional autonomy. In Studies 3 and 4, poorer gaze control predicted decreased cognitive-affective differentiation from one’s spouse and lower marital quality in healthy elderly couples (Study 3) and elderly couples, where one spouse had PD (Study 4). The present findings argue for the existence of a unified sociocognitive network, perpetually shaped by one’s interpersonal history, and which encompasses perceptual mechanisms, specialized for face and gaze processing and higher-order cognitive mechanisms, specialized for processing the meaning (s) of social environments.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/27600
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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