Monday, September 08, 2008
Culture shapes how we look at faces.
Studies of eye movements have persistently revealed a systematic triangular sequence of fixations over the eye and the mouth, with dominance to the eyes, suggesting that the presence of a face triggers a universal, biologically-determined information extraction pattern. However, the literature is based on observations with adults from Western cultures only. Blais et al. have monitored the eye movements of Western Caucasian and East Asian observers while they learned, recognized, and categorized by race Western Caucasian and East Asian faces. Western Caucasian observers reproduced a scattered triangular pattern of fixations for faces of both races and across tasks. Contrary to intuition, East Asian observers focused more on the central region of the face. The work suggests that face processing does not rise from a universal sequence of perceptual events, but rather that the strategy employed to extract visual information from faces differs across cultures.