Joseph R. Pauszek, Alyx Ballenger, Kaitlin H. Gallup, Mark R. Brown, Peter A. Oduwole, Jeremy Schwob, Zac Vidic, Michael Wright



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Change blindness (CB) is an inability to detect changes in a visual stimulus. For example, Simons & Chabris (1999) used videotaped scenes depicting a gorilla walking across the screen, typically unnoticed by observers. The present research investigated blindness to changes in facial indications of emotion. Previous studies have shown that gradual changes of facial emotion produce substantive levels of CB when assessed by verbal report (David et al., 2006). It has also been noted that observers express high levels of confidence in their ability and accuracy to detect a change in a stimulus if it were to take place, even though they consistently fail to detect changes (Blackmore et al., 1995). The present research replicates these results and examines the relationship between empathy (sensitivity to others’ emotions), social awareness (cognizance of what is needed by others in a social situation), and CB. Experiment 1, using subjective reports of change detection, verified the three hypotheses of interest in this research: first, gradual changes in the facial emotion of an actor in a video were detected more frequently than gradual changes in a neutral stimulus (e.g., the color of a shirt), and more often by participants who were more socially aware and empathic; and, second, more overconfidence in their ability to detect change was expressed, a priori, by participants who were least accurate in detecting changes in emotion. The use of eye-tracking equipment in a second experiment is expected to provide physiological verification for these results. Specifically, it is expected that gradual changes in the facial emotion of an actor in a video will attract more gaze and fixation, and be detected more frequently, than gradual changes in a neutral stimulus (e.g., the color of a shirt).

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Independent Research

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Susan T. Davis, Scott T. Wagoner

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The Impact of Social Awareness, Empathy, and Confidence on Blindness to Change in Facial Emotions