Collaborative Research: Significance of eye morphology on gaze perception Grant uri icon


  • The ability to determine gaze direction is vital to many social behaviors. This project will study the morphological factors influencing individuals'' abilities to detect gaze direction. Using human and nonhuman primates in a comparative framework, the researchers will study the relationship between eye morphology and gaze perception. The research will provide a better understanding of how the appearance of the eye influences gaze perception across the primate lineage. Outreach activities will include the project team giving interactive presentations on primate behavior and conservation to high school students and community members, with a particular focus on students and community members belonging to groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The project will also develop a primate behavior module at an under-resourced high school; the students will learn about primates and conduct observational studies at a local zoo. The team will train a postdoctoral associate, as well as undergraduate students, in primate behavior, conservation, and management.Gaze perception is of fundamental importance to social cognition but our understanding of the ways in which eye morphology impacts it is limited. This project will examine the relationship between gaze perception and eye morphology to determine whether conspicuous eye morphology facilitates gaze perception while inconspicuous eye morphology conceals gaze perception. It will manipulate eye morphology and examine its impact on gaze perception in humans as well as other primates. After presenting subjects with photographic arrays of faces that have systematically manipulated eye morphology, it will instruct subjects to detect faces with specific gaze directions. It will monitor the eye movements of subjects to track their gaze behavior during the task. The results of this study will help elucidate the evolutionary significance of eye morphology on gaze perception across primate species.This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • 2019 - 2022