Gender and Facial Dominance in Gaze Cuing: Emotional Context Matters in the Eyes That We Follow

Garian Ohlsen*, Wieske van Zoest, Mark van Vugt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Gaze following is a socio-cognitive process that provides adaptive information about potential threats and opportunities in the individual's environment. The aim of the present study was to investigate the potential interaction between emotional context and facial dominance in gaze following. We used the gaze cue task to induce attention to or away from the location of a target stimulus. In the experiment, the gaze cue either belonged to a (dominant looking) male face or a (non-dominant looking) female face. Critically, prior to the task, individuals were primed with pictures of threat or no threat to induce either a dangerous or safe environment. Findings revealed that the primed emotional context critically influenced the gaze cuing effect. While a gaze cue of the dominant male face influenced performance in both the threat and no-threat conditions, the gaze cue of the non-dominant female face only influenced performance in the no-threat condition. This research suggests an implicit, context-dependent follower bias, which carries implications for research on visual attention, social cognition, and leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere59471
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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