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05-02-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2016

Psychological Research 2/2016

Learning under your gaze: the mediating role of affective arousal between perceived direct gaze and memory performance

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2016
Auteurs:
Terhi M. Helminen, Tytti P. Pasanen, Jari K. Hietanen

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that cognitive performance can be affected by the presence of an observer and self-directed gaze. We investigated whether the effect of gaze direction (direct vs. downcast) on verbal memory is mediated by autonomic arousal. Male participants responded with enhanced affective arousal to both male and female storytellers’ direct gaze which, according to a path analysis, was negatively associated with the performance. On the other hand, parallel to this arousal-mediated effect, males’ performance was affected by another process impacting the performance positively and suggested to be related to effort allocation on the task. The effect of this process was observed only when the storyteller was a male. The participants remembered more details from a story told by a male with a direct vs. downcast gaze. The effect of gaze direction on performance was the opposite for female storytellers, which was explained by the arousal-mediated process. Surprisingly, these results were restricted to male participants only and no effects of gaze were observed among female participants. We also investigated whether the participants’ belief of being seen or not (through an electronic window) by the storyteller influenced the memory and arousal, but this manipulation had no effect on the results.

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