Why we Should Not Forget About the Non-social World: Subjective Preferences, Exploratory Eye-movements, and Individual Differences


We investigated both subjective and objective differences in viewing non-social versus social scenes. Specifically, we examined four related questions: 1) Do participants prefer non-social or social scenes? 2) Are there differences in subjective exploration of non-social and social scenes? 3) Are there differences in objective exploration of these scenes? 4) Does a non-social trait – connection to nature – influence the extent of non-social scene exploration? Experiment 1 found, surprisingly, that participants prefer non-social over social scenes, and correspondingly, they reported exploring these scenes more. Experiment 2 used eye-tracking to test the validity of this introspection and confirmed that participants explore non-social scenes more than social scenes. We also discovered that connection to nature selectively modulates exploration of non-social scenes, demonstrating a critical interaction between observer and scene characteristics in the deployment of spatial attention.

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