Psychophysiological responses to eye contact

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Linna building, auditorium K 103, address: Kalevantie 5.

Doctoral defence of M.A. Psych, M.A. Aki Myllyneva

Aki MyllynevaPsychophysiological responses to eye contact

The field of science of the dissertation is Psychology.

The opponent is Dr Laurence Conty (Université Paris 8, France). Professor Jari Hietanen acts as the custos.
The language of the dissertation defence is English.

Psychophysiological responses to eye contact

Eye contact is an essential social cue. Enhanced brain, autonomic, and self-assessed responses are associated to making eye contact with a person. Interestingly, greater responses to eye contact than an averted gaze have been observed when showing live faces as stimuli, but not when showing pictures of faces on a computer screen. My dissertation investigates how two components of eye contact - seeing and being seen - affect bodily and self-assessed responses. The second part of the dissertation studies how adolescents with social anxiety disorder are affected by eye contact when they not only see the other person, but are also seen.

Autonomical measures (skin conductance, heart rate) and EEG were used to monitor bodily responses. Additionally self-assessments were used. The results suggest that contextual factors are powerful modulators of the processing of socially relevant sensory information. Especially important is the knowledge or the belief that the other person can see the observer. Two requirements must be met for physiological responses to occur in response to eye contact: the experience of being seen by another individual, and the experience of seeing the other individual. Second part of the work shows that adolescents with social anxiety disorder exhibit a consistent physiological, behavioral, and self-assessed response pattern characterizing the core symptoms of social anxiety when making eye contact with a live person.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2196, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2016. ISBN  978-952-03-0192-7, ISSN 1455-1616. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1695, Tampere University Press 2016. ISBN  978-952-03-0193-4, ISSN 1456-954X.