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Eye Gaze During Controversial Conversations Depends on Agreement and Conversational Role

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of conversational role (speaking versus listening) and conversational agreement (agreement versus disagreement) on eye gaze toward the interlocutor in the context of controversial, political conversations. Previous studies have only examined these variables independently of one another and typically not in face-to-face conversations. Participants briefly discussed four historically partisan social issues with an experimental confederate posing as a participant, who either agreed or disagreed with the viewpoints endorsed by the participant. Participants’ gaze toward the confederate was recorded using a hidden video camera. Consistent with previous research, our results showed that participants looked at the confederate more when listening than speaking. Notably, the magnitude of this listening-speaking difference depended on agreement condition; compared to a baseline non-controversial conversation, disagreement (but not agreement) exacerbated the listening-speaking difference, particularly by increasing gaze during listening. Follow-up analyses showed that emotion, gender, and political ideology did not moderate this effect. Together, these results shed light on factors that affect eye gaze during politically-charged conversations and show that both conversational role and level of agreement work together to exert an influence.

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Correspondence to Laura Cacciamani.

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Cali Tyler declares that she has no conflict of interest. Sam Light declares that he has no conflict of interest. Anika Notthoff declares that she has no conflict of interest. Laura Cacciamani declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Tyler, C., Light, S., Notthoff, A. et al. Eye Gaze During Controversial Conversations Depends on Agreement and Conversational Role. J Nonverbal Behav 45, 351–366 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-021-00363-5

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Keywords

  • Eye gaze
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Conversational agreement
  • Conversational role
  • Politics