Individuals with left hemianopic field loss (HFL), especially with neglect history, may have greater difficulties than individuals with right HFL in judging the direction of another person's gaze.
Individuals with HFL often show a spatial bias in laboratory-based perceptual tasks. We investigated whether such biases also manifest in a more real-world task, perception of mutual gaze direction, an important, nonverbal communication cue in social interactions.
Participants adjusted the eye position of a life-size virtual head on a monitor at a 1-m distance until (1) the eyes appeared to be looking straight at them, or (2) the eyes were perceived to be no longer looking at them (to the right and left).
Participants with right HFL (n = 8) demonstrated a rightward error in line bisection but made gaze judgments within the range of normally sighted controls (n = 17). Participants with left HFL without neglect history (n = 6) made leftward errors in line bisection and had more variable gaze judgments; three had estimates of gaze direction outside the reference range. Four participants with left HFL and neglect history made estimates of gaze direction that were to the right of the reference range.
Our results suggest that individuals with left HFL, especially with neglect history, may have greater difficulties than individuals with right HFL in compensating for low-level spatial biases (as manifested in line bisection) when performing the more complex, higher-level task of judging gaze direction.