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Title: Cognitive and neural mechanisms of social eye gaze
Author: Cañigueral Vila, Maria Roser
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 3529
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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Social interactions are characterised by exchanges of a variety of social signals to communicate with other people. A key feature in real-life interactions is that we are in the presence of other people who can see us (audience), and we modulate our behaviour to send and receive signals (audience effect). Although social neuroscience research has traditionally examined how we respond to pictures and videos of humans, second-person neuroscience suggests that interactions with pre-recorded versus live people recruit distinct neurocognitive mechanisms. The aim of this thesis was to investigate which cognitive and neural mechanisms underlie changes in behaviour when being watched, particularly focusing on eye gaze, facial displays and prosocial behaviour as social signals. Using a novel ecologically valid paradigm, the first study showed that the opportunity to signal good reputation is a key modulator of eye gaze and prosocial behaviour. Using the same paradigm, the second study found no evidence to support the hypothesis that audience effects are mediated by an increase in self-referential processing. The third study focused on the time-course of eye gaze and facial displays patterns in relation to speech, both in typical and autistic individuals: contrary to what was expected both groups modulated eye gaze and facial displays according to the belief in being watched and speaker/listener role. Finally, the fourth study tested the role of reciprocity in live interactions: sharing information with a partner modulated eye gaze, facial displays, and brain activity in regions related to mentalising and decision-making. I discuss the theoretical implications of these findings and set out a cognitive model of gaze processing in live interactions. Finally, I outline directions for future research in social neuroscience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available