Social Vision Research

Social Relations Laboratory – at Rhode Island College


The SRL also conducts research on social neuroscience with a specific focus on:

1) The componential structure of social vision

2) Visual attention to faces of in-group and out-group members

3) The effects of stereotypes, relative group status and facial attractiveness on visual attention

A summary of findings from the research below can be found in my forthcoming book (Malloy, 2018 – Social Relations Modeling of Behavior in Dyads and Groups, Elsevier, The Netherlands).


Componential Structure of Social Vision

Malloy (2018) offered a theoretical discussion of social vision and the specification of a componential model of face processing and variance components in visual attention.  Estimates quantify the relative importance of the perceiver, the target face and their interaction.  Perceiver i’s visual attention (A) to target face t can be represented by equation 1, and is the social relations model applied in the face processing context.

Ait = µ + αi + βt + γit + εit                Equation 1

In equation 12.1, Ait is i’s visual attention to target face t,µ is the mean visual attention to the set of faces by the perceivers, βt is the effect of a target face t on i’s visual attention, and γit is i’s unique visual attention to face t.  There is also random error (εit) in visual attention.

Variances and covariances of the components specified in equation 1 estimate different social visual phenomena.  Perceiver variance in visual attention (Sα2) quantifies consistent differences among perceivers in their visual attention to the same faces.  Face variance (Sβ2) quantifies consistent differences among faces in the visual attention they elicit from perceivers.  Perceiver by face variance (Sγ2) quantifies specific perceiver’s unique visual attention to specific faces.

Visual Attention to Faces on In-Group and Out-Group Members

Results of the experiments mentioned on this page can be found in Malloy (2018).  Faces like those below have been used in experiments that prime category information (search for the victim or perpetrator of a crime) while visual attention to faces in measured.

In other experiments, as seen below, only out-group faces (i.e., Black males) of one race are included while members of the in-group (i.e., Whites) attempt to identify the perpetrator or victim of a crime.

In other experiments, participants view faces of members of different racial groups and make ability judgments (i.e., physical ability, verbal ability, mathematical ability, artistic ability, and spatial awareness). Biracial faces (not displayed) have also been used.

Other experiments have focused on the effect of facial attractiveness on visual attention, and the joint effects of facial attractiveness and occupational status on visual attention and their effects on recognition memory for faces.   Examples are below.

Attractive Faces with Low and High Status

Unattractive Faces with Low and High Status