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Do we "automatically" compute what or where someone else is looking at?

Automaticity is a complex construct in cognitive sciences which usually refers to processes that have the following main characteristics: (1) the processes are stimulus-driven, that is, the mere presence of a stimulus triggers the processing; (2) the processes are effortless, that is, they require little cognitive ressources and operate even under dual-task conditions; and (3) the processes are involuntary, that is they operate beyong our control. While there is evidence from both the visual perspective-taking and the gaze cueing literature that the computation of what or where someone else is looking at is automatic in the sense that it is effortless and happens involuntarily, we showed in a recent study that such computation is however not stimulus-driven. The mere presence of another person is not enough to engage in the computation of what or where that person is looking at. In a series of 3 experiments, we show the conditions that are necessary to trigger such computation. The full article can be found here.

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