Eye’m lovin’ it! The role of gazing awareness in mimetic desires (Study)

“Recent studies showed that people evaluate objects more favorably when these objects are gazed-at by others, an effect coined as “mimetic desire”. In two studies, we tested whether mimetic desire stems from an automatic form of learning by examining one dimension of automaticity, i.e., people’s awareness of the object-gaze association. Participants saw 6 neutral art paintings associated with a female gazing toward two of the paintings, away from two of the paintings, and closing her eyes with respect to the last two paintings. After the exposition phase, participants evaluated the paintings and performed a contingency-awareness test. Importantly, participants’ responses on this test were genuinely driven by memory and not by inferences from liking. Results show that participants preferred objects that were gazed-at but only when they were aware of the object-gaze association. Hence, despite the adaptive function of joint attention, its impact on valence acquisition does not seem to qualify as an implicit learning process.”


Clémentine Bry, Evelyne Treinen, Olivier Corneille  and Vincent Yzerbyt.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2011, Pages 987-993

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