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Dev Psychobiol. 2016 Jan;58(1):129-36. doi: 10.1002/dev.21338. Epub 2015 Aug 6.

Efficient human face detection in infancy.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA.
2
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Dickerson, MD, USA.
3
Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

Abstract

Adults detect conspecific faces more efficiently than heterospecific faces; however, the development of this own-species bias (OSB) remains unexplored. We tested whether 6- and 11-month-olds exhibit OSB in their attention to human and animal faces in complex visual displays with high perceptual load (25 images competing for attention). Infants (nā€‰=ā€‰48) and adults (nā€‰=ā€‰43) passively viewed arrays containing a face among 24 non-face distractors while we measured their gaze with remote eye tracking. While OSB is typically not observed until about 9 months, we found that, already by 6 months, human faces were more likely to be detected, were detected more quickly (attention capture), and received longer looks (attention holding) than animal faces. These data suggest that 6-month-olds already exhibit OSB in face detection efficiency, consistent with perceptual attunement. This specialization may reflect the biological importance of detecting conspecific faces, a foundational ability for early social interactions.

KEYWORDS:

attention capture; eye tracking; face learning; face processing; face specialization; infant; own-species bias; perceptual attunement; saliency; social orienting; visual attention

PMID:
26248583
DOI:
10.1002/dev.21338
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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