December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
The Role of Familiarity in Infant Selective Attention to the Eyes and Language Development
Author Affiliations
  • Jamie Newland
    University of Florida
  • Lisa S. Scott
    University of Florida
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 3798. doi:
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      Jamie Newland, Lisa S. Scott; The Role of Familiarity in Infant Selective Attention to the Eyes and Language Development. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):3798.

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

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Faces are a rich source of information for learning communication skills. Eye-tracking studies have enabled researchers to investigate the extent to which faces serve as a tool for infant learning across development. The present study investigated the extent to which visual fixations to the eye and mouth regions of familiar and unfamiliar race female static faces are impacted by language development across two longitudinal cohorts of infants tested twice in a younger cohort (6 and 9 months of age; [n=21]) and an older cohort (9 and 12 months of age; [n=30]). Parent reported infant communication skills were measured using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Infants maintained greater attention to the eyes than the mouth of a static face between 6 to 12 months, and this difference was greater for familiar face groups compared to unfamiliar face groups (p < 0.001). The proportion of looking time to the eyes was also greater in the older cohort compared to the younger cohort (p = 0.03). Further, greater looking time to the eyes of a still, familiar face type was positively related to expressive language development after a 3-month time period in both cohorts, and receptive language development only in the younger cohort. There were no significant relations between language scores and visual fixations for the unfamiliar race condition. Combined, these results suggest that selective attention to the eyes and mouth varies as a function of age and early experience. Further, infants’ early experiences with familiar people and may later direct visual attention and language learning.


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