06/11/2009

Social Attention & Identity

Looking at others is an important and natural feature of our everyday life — so much so that when others fail to meet our gaze we immediately sense that something is wrong.

Clearly, at whom we look — and how — betrays much about our own identity: who we are, where we come from, our gender, age, and social status.

Although these aspects of social attention seem, at first glance, fundamentally human, they are also biological features with deep evolutionary roots.

Indeed, a hallmark of primate evolution is an increasing reliance on vision to guide behavior.

Such visually-guided behaviors include the discovery and selection of high-quality foods, recognition and pursuit of receptive mates, identification and solicitation of potential allies, the detection of predators, and avoidance of social threats.

More here.