The Evil Eye: Eye Gaze and Competitiveness in Social Decision Making

European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 388-396, April 2018

22 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2018

See all articles by Mauro Giacomantonio

Mauro Giacomantonio

University of Rome I

Jennifer Jordan

University of Groningen

Francesca Federico

University of Rome I

Martijn J. van den Assem

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Dennie van Dolder

VU Amsterdam - School of Business and Economics; Tinbergen Institute; Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics (CeDEx) - University of Nottingham

Date Written: October 18, 2017

Abstract

We demonstrate that a person’s eye gaze and his/her competitiveness are closely intertwined in social decision making. In an exploratory examination of this relationship, Study 1 uses field data from a high-stakes TV game show to demonstrate that the frequency by which contestants gaze at their opponent’s eyes predicts their defection in a variant on the prisoner’s dilemma. Studies 2 and 3 use experiments to examine the underlying causality and demonstrate that the relationship between gazing and competitive behavior is bi-directional. In Study 2, fixation on the eyes, compared to the face, increases competitive behavior toward the target in an ultimatum game. In Study 3, we manipulate the framing of a negotiation (cooperative vs. competitive) and use an eye tracker to measure fixation number and time spent fixating on the counterpart’s eyes. We find that a competitive negotiation elicits more gazing, which in turn leads to more competitive behavior.

Keywords: eye gaze, eye fixation, competition, competitive behavior

JEL Classification: C72, D03

Suggested Citation

Giacomantonio, Mauro and Jordan, Jennifer and Federico, Francesca and van den Assem, Martijn J. and van Dolder, Dennie, The Evil Eye: Eye Gaze and Competitiveness in Social Decision Making (October 18, 2017). European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 388-396, April 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3055092

Mauro Giacomantonio (Contact Author)

University of Rome I ( email )

Jennifer Jordan

University of Groningen ( email )

P.O. Box 800
9700 AH Groningen, Groningen 9700 AV
Netherlands

Francesca Federico

University of Rome I ( email )

Martijn J. Van den Assem

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands

Dennie Van Dolder

VU Amsterdam - School of Business and Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics (CeDEx) - University of Nottingham ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
United Kingdom

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