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Journal Article

Perceptual integration of head and eye cues to gaze direction in schizophrenia

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Palmer, C., Caruana, N., Clifford, C., & Seymour, K. (2018). Perceptual integration of head and eye cues to gaze direction in schizophrenia. Royal Society Open Science, 5(12): 180885, pp. 1-12. doi:10.1098/rsos.180885.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-82D8-2
The perceptual mechanisms that underlie social experience in schizophrenia are increasingly becoming a target of empirical research. In the context of low-level vision, there is evidence for a reduction in the integration of sensory features in schizophrenia (e.g. increased thresholds for contour detection and motion coherence). In the context of higher-level vision, comparable differences in the integration of sensory features of the face could in theory impair the recognition of important social cues. Here we examine how the sense of where other people are looking relies upon the integration of eye-region cues and head-region cues. Adults with schizophrenia viewed face images designed to elicit the 'Wollaston illusion', a perceptual phenomenon in which the perceived gaze direction associated with a given pair of eyes is modulated by the surrounding sensory context. We performed computational modelling of these psychophysical data to quantify individual differences in the use of facial cues to gaze direction. We find that adults with schizophrenia exhibit a robust perceptual effect whereby their sense of other people's direction of gaze is strongly biased by sensory cues relating to head orientation in addition to eye region information. These results indicate that the visual integration of facial cues to gaze direction in schizophrenia is intact, helping to constrain theories of reduced integrative processing in higher-level and lower-level vision. In addition, robust gaze processing was evident in the tested participants despite reduced performance on a theory of mind task designed to assess higher-level social cognition.