Hayward, D.A., Voorhies, W., Morris, J.L., Capozzi, F. and Ristic, J. (2017). Staring Reality in the Face: A Comparison of Social Attention Across Laboratory and Real World Measures Suggests Little Common Ground. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue Canadienne de Psychologie Expérimentale, 71(3), 212 - 225. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cep0000117
The ability to attend to someone else’s gaze is thought to represent one of the essential building blocks of the human sociocognitive system. This behavior, termed social attention, has traditionally been assessed using laboratory procedures in which participants’ response time and/or accuracy performance indexes attentional function. Recently, a parallel body of emerging research has started to examine social attention during real life social interactions using naturalistic and observational methodologies. The main goal of the present work was to begin connecting these two lines of inquiry. To do so, here we operationalized, indexed, and measured the engagement and shifting components of social attention using covert and overt measures. These measures were obtained during an unconstrained real-world social interaction and during a typical laboratory social cuing task. Our results indicated reliable and overall similar indices of social attention engagement and shifting within each task. However, these measures did not relate across the two tasks. We discuss these results as potentially reflecting the differences in social attention mechanisms, the specificity of the cuing task’s measurement, as well as possible general dissimilarities with respect to context, task goals, and/or social presence.