How Individuals with Insomnia View Their Own and Others Faces: An Eye-Tracking Study

Umair Akram, Jason Ellis, Andriy Myachykov, Nicola Barclay

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Introduction: Previous research has demonstrated that individuals with insomnia perceive their own facial appearance as more tired in comparison to others. Furthermore, facial perceptions of tiredness have been shown to rely on preferential attention towards the eyes. The present study aimed to objectively explore whether individuals with insomnia differentially observe their own and others' faces relative to normal-sleepers and more specifically whether people with insomnia display a self-specific or general attentional bias towards the eye region. Methods: Twenty participants who met the DSM-V criteria for insomnia (85% female, mean age 21.30 ± 3.91) and 20 normal-sleepers (75% female, mean age 24.50 ± 7.08) viewed 48 neutral facial photographs (24 of themselves, 24 of another) each for periods of 4000 msec. Three interest-regions, examined for overall gaze duration (eyes, nose, mouth) were compared both between, and within groups. Results: A mixed ANOVA demonstrated that Individuals with insomnia observed all three interest-regions for longer compared to normal-sleepers, F(1,38) = 4.03, p = 0.05. Further, a group x region interaction confirmed that those with insomnia spent more time looking at the eyes, and less time at the nose and mouth compared to normal-sleepers F(2,76) = 5.64, p = 0.01. Although all participants attended to their own eyes for longer than others, F(1,50) = 27.00, p = 0.01, no group x face (self vs. other) interaction was apparent, p > 0.05. Conclusion: The present study showed that individuals with insomnia display preferential attention towards the eye region whilst viewing faces in general compared to normal-sleepers. Additionally, such attention was evident whilst viewing both their own and others’ faces, suggesting insomnia is characterized by a general, rather than self-specific, bias of attention towards eyes. Additional research should explore whether such attention may be indicative of evaluations of tiredness. The current findings contribute to understanding face perception in insomnia, highlighting potential importance of the eye region for the perception of tiredness in insomnia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246
Issue numberA
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


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