“Newborns' Preference for Face-Relevant Stimuli: Effects of Contrast Polarity”

Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, School of Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, United Kingdom.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 12/2005; 102(47):17245-50. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0502205102
Source: PubMed


There is currently no agreement as to how specific or general are the mechanisms underlying newborns' face preferences. We address this issue by manipulating the contrast polarity of schematic and naturalistic face-related images and assessing the preferences of newborns. We find that for both schematic and naturalistic face images, the contrast polarity is important. Newborns did not show a preference for an upright face-related image unless it was composed of darker areas around the eyes and mouth. This result is consistent with either sensitivity to the shadowed areas of a face with overhead (natural) illumination and/or to the detection of eye contact.

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Available from: Teresa Farroni, Mar 23, 2014
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    • "Thus, it seems possible that the visual processes preceding and leading to suppression release in b-CFS involve subcortical pathway activity. Indeed, specific stimulus properties that modulate looking preferences in newborns (Farroni et al., 2005) have been found to have a similar influence on adults' awareness of upright relative to inverted faces in b-CFS (Stein, Peelen, & Sterzer, 2011b). However, there is also evidence that awareness of faces is modulated by visual experience: Upright faces of friends are associated with shorter suppression times than upright faces of strangers (Gobbini et al., 2013), and the inversion effect in b-CFS is larger for the observer's own race and age group (Stein, End, & Sterzer, 2014). "
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    • "Based on prior work on the conscious perception of fearful faces (Peltola, Leppänen, Mäki, et al., 2009) and other work demonstrating developmental changes in socio-emotional responding towards the second half of the first year of life (Vaish, Grossmann, & Woodward, 2008), we predicted that 7-month-old infants, but not 5-month-old infants, would show evidence for the ability to discriminate between fearful and non-fearful eyes. Critically, similar to prior work (Farroni et al., 2005; Jessen & Grossmann, 2014; Whalen et al., 2004), we employed a control condition in which we presented polarity-inverted eye stimuli, which allowed us to assess the specificity of infants' responses to human sclerae. "
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