The study aimed at expanding the literature on the relationship between response to social stimuli and personality. The hypothesis that was being tested read, “Personality traits influence eye movements in response to a social stimuli.” The researchers sought to examine whether other traits other than Autism Quotient have an influence on social attention behavior. The traits examined were as defined by the Big Five personality traits which included; openness to change, agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Based on the findings, the authors proposed a theory that personality in terms of Big Five model relates to eye movements in response a social stimuli.
The researchers used several materials including questionnaires, an eye-tracking system, a computer monitor, and thirty unique images that were randomly viewed on the monitor by the participants during the experiment. The tracking system was used for tracking eye movements when viewing the images. The questionnaire was used for collecting information regarding participants’ personality traits.
The respondents in the study were 50 students from a university. They were requested to seat 60 cm from a computer monitor and were asked to freely view random images as they would do so in a normal environment. They viewed 30 random images where each was viewed for 10 seconds. The images featured landscape, fractals, and human scenes. Notably, the latter also featured people interacting or playing a board game. In some, there was only a single person. While the participants viewed them, the eye movements were recorded in real-time by an eye-tracking system at a relatively high frequency. The experiment followed the performance of the respondents in the testing room in a bid to point out any discrepancies. Finally, the respondents were presented with a questionnaire that contained specific questions that aimed at determining their personality traits. In collecting data, the Big Five traits were the predictor variables, amount of time spent on the eye region and average fixation duration acted as the dependent variables.
In bid to evaluate the correlation between the sets of variables, the authors utilized a canonical correlational analysis. This correlation created dependent ad predictor variables as well as linear equations from the sets of variables eventually enabling the researchers to narrow down to a grounded correlation between them. After analyzing the sets of data collected, it was seen that the canonical functions had led to two functions that had squared canonical functions. A collective consideration showed that the full model was significant across the two models. On the other hand, the authors utilized a reduction analysis which showed that one of the functions indicated significant variance between social attention and personality while the other did not.
One of the functions had a squared canonical correlation value of 0.353. This explained 35.3% of the common variance between social attention and personality. After an examination of the communality coefficient (CC), it was seen that openness to change, agreeableness and extraversion were the most significant predictors. Notably, openness to change was the most significant predictor. It had a CC at least four times higher than that of agreeableness and extraversion. It is imperative to note that openness had a coefficient whose sign was an inverse of all other variables’ signs which highlighted a negative relationship. Eventually, this indicated that individuals with high scores in openness spent shorter time in their commitment to the eye regions while those with higher scores on agreeableness and extraversion spent longer time on eye regions. This introduces the main finding of the research that personality in terms of Big Five personality traits related to eye movements in response to a social stimuli. Specifically, it was seen that both agreeableness and extraversion correlated positively to attention to the eyes while openness to change correlated negatively to the attention committed to the eyes.
Implications of the study
The study introduced new insights when it comes to the relationship between social attention and personality traits. It was concluded that personality traits have an influence on social attention as well as how one sees the world. Now that such traits influence how one commits eye contact to another person, verbal cues such as eye contact need to be relooked into. The study showed that ability to successfully employ such verbal cues is highly related to personality traits.
Gaps and Limitations
The study tested the hypothesis, defined variables, and drew conclusions from what the data indicated. However, there are a few gaps that can clearly be seen. First, it could have been better if the researchers sampled respondents that are more diverse in terms of age and environment. They sampled respondents from a specific environment and age which could have left out important insights. Second, there are confounding variables that could have influenced the results. For instance, other factors other than the images being viewed could have influenced the eye movements. Third, a pilot-test could have been necessary in ascertaining the consistency of the data collected. The authors did not test the data collected hence reliability and validity of the outcomes was no cemented. Finally, the authors did not clearly define what future research should focus on in bid to provide more information and insights when it comes to personality and social attention.
Wu, D., Bischof, W. F., Anderson, N. C., Jakobsen, T., & Kingstone, A. (2014). The influence of personality on social attention. Personality and Individual Differences 60(1), 25-29.