Age-related decline in the reflexive component of overt gaze following

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Kuhn, G ; Pagano, A ; Maani, S ; Bunce, D (2014)
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: genetic structures

Previous research has found age-related declines in social perception tasks as well as the ability to engage in joint attention and orienting covert attention (i.e., absence of eye movements) in response to an eye gaze cue. We used an overt gaze following task to explore age differences in overt gaze following whilst people searched for a target. Participants were faster to detect targets appearing at the looked-at location, and although the gaze cue biased the direction in which saccades were executed, no age differences were found in overt gaze following. There were, however, age effects relating to involuntary eye movements. In the younger adults, anticipatory saccades were biased in the direction of the gaze cue, but this bias was not observed in the older group. Moreover, in the younger adults, saccades that followed the gaze were initiated more rapidly, illustrating the reflexive nature of gaze following. No such difference was observed in the older adults. Importantly, our results showed that whilst the general levels of gaze following were age invariant, there were age-related differences in the reflexive components of overt gaze following.
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