Facial cues of dominance modulate the short-term gaze-cuing effect in human observers

B. C. Jones, L. M. DeBruine, J. C. Main, A. C. Little, L. L. M. Welling, D. R. Feinberg, B. P. Tiddeman

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146 Citations (Scopus)


Responding appropriately to gaze cues is essential for fluent social interaction, playing a crucial role in social learning, collaboration, threat assessment and understanding others' intentions. Previous research has shown that responses to gaze cues can be studied by investigating the gaze-cuing effect (i.e., the tendency for observers to respond more quickly to targets in locations that were cued by others' gaze than to uncued targets). A recent study demonstrating that macaques demonstrate larger gaze-cuing effects when viewing dominant conspecifics than when viewing subordinate conspecifics suggests that cues of dominance modulate the gaze-cuing effect in at least one primate species. Here we show a similar effect of facial cues associated with dominance on gaze-cuing in human observers: at short viewing times, observers demonstrated a greater cuing effect for gaze cues from masculinised (i.e., dominant) faces than from feminised (i.e., subordinate) faces. Moreover, this effect of facial masculinity on gaze-cuing decreased as viewing time was increased, suggesting that the effect is driven by involuntary responses. Our findings suggest that the mechanisms that underpin reflexive gaze-cuing evolved to be sensitive to facial cues of others' dominance, potentially because such differential gaze-cuing promoted desirable outcomes from encounters with dominant individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-624
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1681
Early online date28 Oct 2009
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2010


  • gaze
  • dominance
  • gaze-following
  • joint attention


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