September 2011
Volume 11, Issue 11
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2011
Unlike Adults, Infants' Visual Preferences are Driven by Lower-Level Visual Features
Author Affiliations
  • Lauren Burakowski
  • Edward Vessel
    New York University, USA
  • Scott Johnson
  • Lauren Krogh
Journal of Vision September 2011, Vol.11, 413. doi:
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      Lauren Burakowski, Edward Vessel, Scott Johnson, Lauren Krogh; Unlike Adults, Infants' Visual Preferences are Driven by Lower-Level Visual Features. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):413.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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What information guides infants' visual preferences? Adult spontaneous visual preferences are largely determined by semantic associations - when asked to indicate preferences for real-world scenes containing shared semantic associations, adults show high agreement in which images are preferred (Vessel & Rubin, 2010). However, when the same adults indicate preferences for abstract images (e.g. fractals) containing no common semantic interpretations, preferences are highly individual. Therefore, adults' shared semantics lead to shared preferences. Infants, however, are unlikely to have developed semantic associations. What drives their preferences, and will they show agreement?

We measured preferences for fourteen 5-month-old infants (age 5.0 ± 0.27 months; 7 girls). During each session, infants viewed a set of 16 real-world or 16 abstract images on a Tobii 1750 eye tracker. On each trial, a pair of images was presented side-by-side for four seconds and the infant's preference was measured by which image the infant fixated longer. Preferences on each trial were entered into a computerized sorting algorithm that minimizes comparisons (Vessel & Rubin, 2010). Overall preference scores for each infant were computed from the paired-comparison data, and these were then compared across infants.

Surprisingly, agreement in preference across infants was high for both real-world and abstract images (0.45 for scenes: t(44) = 18.4, p < 0.0001; 0.46 for abstract images: t(44) = 16.1, p < 0.0001). These means are not different (t(44) = 0.32, p = 0.75), indicating that infants have similar agreement for both types of images.

These data suggest that infants' visual preferences are driven by lower-level visual features (e.g. shape and color), which are present in both abstract and real-world images. The highly individual preferences for abstract images in adults strongly suggests a developmental change in the information used to compute preferences. As children acquire knowledge of semantic associations, these associations come to dominate preference.


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