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Eyes vs. Faces

November 13, 2012

Monsters from the role playing game “Dungeons & Dragons” help reveal what’s most important to us.



A monstrous research project.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Watching peoples’ eyes helps us decipher their intentions. But until now, scientists haven’t been able to show conclusively that the eyes are actually more important to us than the middle of the face, where the eyes just happen to be located. It occurred to Canadian ninth-grader Julian Levy that monsters from the role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons” could help resolve the issue. Some D&D monsters have eyes on their legs or other body parts. Levy teamed up with his father, University of British Columbia cognitive scientist Alan Kingstone, to track the eye movements of volunteers while they looked at both D&D monsters and humanoids. They found that people indeed turned their gaze towards the eyes first, regardless of where they were located on the body.

ALAN KINGSTONE (University of British Columbia):

And that means we really do have this strong fundamental desire to read biologically relevant information like the gaze direction of other individuals.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Julian Levy wearing an eye-tracking device. (Alan Kingsmore)