When asked questions, adults and children often avert their gaze at certain points within the interaction, especially when questions are difficult (Doherty-Sneddon, Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, & Doyle, 2002; Glenberg, Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998). Gaze aversion may be a way of managing the cognitive load associated with the processing of visual environmental information, or it may serve to alleviate a negative social-emotional experience, such as the self-consciousness associated with, for example, a fear of failure. In the present study, thirty-six 8-year-olds were questioned either face to face or across a live video link. Questions varied in type (arithmetic, verbal reasoning, and autobiographical and episodic memory) and in difficulty. Children averted their gaze more during face-to-face questioning than during video-mediated questioning; however, question difficulty had a very strong influence on aversion in both interview conditions. It is concluded that although social factors play a role in children’s gaze aversion during pedagogical question–answer sequences, the primary function of averting gaze is to manage the cognitive load involved in the processing of environmental information.
|Journal||Memory and Cognition|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jun 2005|