Culture has been well-documented within cross-cultural literature to influence a number of things – including where we fixate on faces. In this article, we ask if initial fixations on faces – i.e. the first few places we glance at – could differ, from culture to culture.
In experiment 1, 2, 4, and 5, East Asian and Caucasian participants completed the 1-in-10 face identification task. Participants were first shown a face, followed by a noise mask, and then 10 faces. When presented with the 10 faces, participants had to which one of the 10 faces matched the face they were shown prior to the mask. (See below for schematic procedure)
Image obtained from Or, Peterson, & Eckstein (2015).
Experiment 3 utilised famous faces as visual stimuli, whereas other experiments used faces of students from participating universities. This allowed the authors to determine if initial fixations from experiments 1 and 2 could be generalized to other types of faces – e.g. famous faces.
All in all, the results of the 5 experiments converged. Participants, regardless of ethnicity, show similar initial fixations at a featureless point, just below the eyes. The authors posit that initial fixations could be driven more by neural mechanisms, rather than culture, due to the strong functional role that a first glance has in face detection.
Or, C. C.-F., Peterson, M. F., & Eckstein, M. P. (2015). Initial eye movements during face identification are optimal and similar across cultures. Journal of Vision, 15(13), 12, 1-25.