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Mee-Kyoung Kwon, Mielle Setoodeh, Lisa Oakes; Infants prefer faces to non-faces but their face processing is not always automatic. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):284. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.284.
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The ability to selectively attend to faces in crowded visual scenes is an important everyday-life skill. Infants younger than 6 months, however, appear to have limited ability to focus on faces. Young infants look equally long at faces and other objects whereas infants older than 6 months more quickly detect faces or maintain attention longer to faces than to other objects (Di Giorgio et al., 2012; Frank et al., 2009). The present study examined how infants’ selective attention to faces develops during the first postnatal year and whether young infants’ limited ability is due to slow encoding or eye-movements. We recorded infants’ eye-movements during a visual search task, determining which item infants fixated first and the total duration that infants fixated each item. In Experiment 1, we presented 4-to 8-month-old infants with 12 displays containing a face and 5 other complex objects for 5 s. Four-month-old infants failed to direct their first fixation to the face, but they looked at the faces for longer durations than expected by chance. Six- and 8-month-old infants both directed their first looks and had total looking durations to faces more than expected by chance. Experiment 2 showed that 4-month-old infants had longer durations, but not increased numbers of first fixations, to faces when trial duration was increased to 12 s. Experiment 3 provides evidence that 4-month-olds’ failure to direct their first fixation to faces is not due to slow eye-movements. When presented with arrays of simple objects (e.g. 1 red circle and 5 green circles) 4-month-old infants’ first looks and look durations to the salient object (e.g. red circle) were different from chance. These results suggest that although faces are attractive to infants, there are substantial developmental changes in infants’ face processing in complex visual displays between 4 and 6 months.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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