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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jan 15;105(2):809-13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0707021105. Epub 2008 Jan 3.

A predisposition for biological motion in the newborn baby.

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Dipartimento di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione, Università di Padova, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padua, Italy.


An inborn predisposition to attend to biological motion has long been theorized, but had so far been demonstrated only in one animal species (the domestic chicken). In particular, no preference for biological motion was reported for human infants of <3 months of age. We tested 2-day-old babies' discrimination after familiarization and their spontaneous preferences for biological vs. nonbiological point-light animations. Newborns were shown to be able to discriminate between two different patterns of motion (Exp. 1) and, when first exposed to them, selectively preferred to look at the biological motion display (Exp. 2). This preference was also orientation-dependent: newborns looked longer at upright displays than upside-down displays (Exp. 3). These data support the hypothesis that detection of biological motion is an intrinsic capacity of the visual system, which is presumably part of an evolutionarily ancient and nonspecies-specific system predisposing animals to preferentially attend to other animals.

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