The well-known gaze cascade hypothesis proposes that as people look longer at an item, they tend to show an increased preference for it. However, using single food images as stimuli, we recently obtained results that clearly deviated from the general proposal that the gaze both expresses and influences preference formation. Instead, the pattern of data depended on the self-determination of exposure duration as well as the type of evaluation task. In order to disambiguate how the type of evaluation determines the relationship between viewing and liking we conducted the present follow-up study, with a fixed response set size as opposed to the varying set sizes in our previous study. In non-exclusive evaluation tasks, subjects were asked how much they liked individual food images. The recorded response was a number from 1 to 3. In exclusive evaluation tasks, subjects were asked for each individual food image to give one of three response options toward a limited selection: include it, exclude it, or defer the judgment. When subjects were able to determine the exposure duration, both the non-exclusive and exclusive evaluations produced inverted U-shaped trends such that the polar ends of the evaluation (the positive and negative extremes) were associated with relatively short viewing times, whereas the middle category had the longest viewing times. Thus, the data once again provided firm evidence against the notion that longer viewing facilitates preference formation. Moreover, the fact that non-exclusive and exclusive evaluation produced similar inverted U-shaped patterns suggests that the response set size is the critical factor that accounts for the observations here versus in our previous study. When keeping the response set size constant, with an equal opportunity to observe inverted U-shaped patterns, the findings are suggestive of a role for the level of decisiveness in determining the length of viewing time. For items that can be categorically identified as positive or negative, the evaluations are soon completed, with relatively brief viewing times. The prolonged visual inspection for the middle category may reflect doubt or uncertainty during the evaluative processing, possibly with an increased effort of information integration before reaching a conclusion.
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