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Nicolas Dollion*, Robert Soussignan*, Karine Durand, Benoist Schaal, Jean-Yves Baudouin*; Visual exploration and discrimination of emotional facial expressions in 3-, 7- and 12-month-old infants. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):795. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.12.795.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
(* These authors contributed equally to the research) The first year of life is critical in the development of the abilities to process facial expressions. Numerous studies have investigated discrimination and categorization of distinct facial expressions of emotion. However, infants’ visual exploratory strategies of these facial expressions and their developmental paths remain unclear. The perfection of eye movement tracking systems makes now the detailed analysis of facial exploration of faces feasible, and hence facilitates the identification of the features in facial expressions which infants focus on. In this study, oculometric parameters of 3- (n=36), 7- (n=66) and 12-month-old infants (n=59) were collected while facial expressions were displayed to them. Infants were consecutively exposed to 6 x 2 (randomized direct/averted gaze) 6-second trials consisting in the presentation of a full-front female or male avatar face expressing anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness or neutrality. Results indicate a significant main effect of age on visual exploration: while 3-month-olds spent most of their time exploring eyes and external traits, 7- and 12-month-olds explored significantly less the external traits and focused more on mouth and nose. Further, the avatars’ facial expressions had no effect on 3-month-olds’ visual exploration; as compared to the 7- and 12-month-olds who differentially explored distinctive facial features depending on the facially-displayed emotion. In conclusion, our data suggest that, along the first year, infants’ visual exploration gradually develops to focus on relevant internal features, with differentiated attention to critical facial features depending on the emotion displayed.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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