Biasing moral decisions by exploiting the dynamics of eye gaze

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Biasing moral decisions by exploiting the dynamics of eye gaze. / Pärnamets, Philip; Johansson, Petter; Hall, Lars; Balkenius, Christian; Spivey, Michael J.; Richardson, Daniel C.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 112, No. 13, 2015, p. 4170-4175.

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Biasing moral decisions by exploiting the dynamics of eye gaze

AU - Pärnamets, Philip

AU - Johansson, Petter

AU - Hall, Lars

AU - Balkenius, Christian

AU - Spivey, Michael J.

AU - Richardson, Daniel C.

N1 - Authors and affiliations: Philip Pärnamets: Lund University Cognitive Science, Kungshuset, Lundagård, 222 22 Lund, Sweden Petter Johansson: Lund University Cognitive Science, Kungshuset, Lundagård, 222 22 Lund, Sweden Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Thunbergsvägen 2, 752 38 Uppsala, Sweden Lars Hall: Lund University Cognitive Science, Kungshuset, Lundagård, 222 22 Lund, Sweden Christian Balkenius: Lund University Cognitive Science, Kungshuset, Lundagård, 222 22 Lund, Sweden Michael J. Spivey: Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, Merced, Merced, CA 95344, USA. Daniel C. Richardson: Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

PY - 2015

Y1 - 2015

N2 - Eye gaze is a window onto cognitive processing in tasks such as spatial memory, linguistic processing, and decision making. We present evidence that information derived from eye gaze can be used to change the course of individuals’ decisions, even when they are reasoning about high-level, moral issues. Previous studies have shown that when an experimenter actively controls what an individual sees the experimenter can affect simple decisions with alternatives of almost equal valence. Here we show that if an experimenter passively knows when individuals move their eyes the experimenter can change complex moral decisions. This causal effect is achieved by simply adjusting the timing of the decisions. We monitored participants’ eye movements during a two-alternative forced-choice task with moral questions. One option was randomly predetermined as a target. At the moment participants had fixated the target option for a set amount of time we terminated their deliberation and prompted them to choose between the two alternatives. Although participants were unaware of this gaze-contingent manipulation, their choices were systematically biased toward the target option. We conclude that even abstract moral cognition is partly constituted by interactions with the immediate environment and is likely supported by gaze-dependent decision processes. By tracking the interplay between individuals, their sensorimotor systems, and the environment, we can influence the outcome of a decision without directly manipulating the content of the information available to them.

AB - Eye gaze is a window onto cognitive processing in tasks such as spatial memory, linguistic processing, and decision making. We present evidence that information derived from eye gaze can be used to change the course of individuals’ decisions, even when they are reasoning about high-level, moral issues. Previous studies have shown that when an experimenter actively controls what an individual sees the experimenter can affect simple decisions with alternatives of almost equal valence. Here we show that if an experimenter passively knows when individuals move their eyes the experimenter can change complex moral decisions. This causal effect is achieved by simply adjusting the timing of the decisions. We monitored participants’ eye movements during a two-alternative forced-choice task with moral questions. One option was randomly predetermined as a target. At the moment participants had fixated the target option for a set amount of time we terminated their deliberation and prompted them to choose between the two alternatives. Although participants were unaware of this gaze-contingent manipulation, their choices were systematically biased toward the target option. We conclude that even abstract moral cognition is partly constituted by interactions with the immediate environment and is likely supported by gaze-dependent decision processes. By tracking the interplay between individuals, their sensorimotor systems, and the environment, we can influence the outcome of a decision without directly manipulating the content of the information available to them.

KW - morality

KW - decision making

KW - eye tracking

KW - visual attention

KW - dynamical systems

U2 - 10.1073/pnas.1415250112

DO - 10.1073/pnas.1415250112

M3 - Article

VL - 112

SP - 4170

EP - 4175

JO - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

T2 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

JF - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

SN - 1091-6490

IS - 13

ER -