Infant discrimination of faces in naturalistic events: actions are more salient than faces

Dev Psychol. 2008 Jul;44(4):983-96. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.4.983.


Despite the fact that faces are typically seen in the context of dynamic events, there is little research on infants' perception of moving faces. L. E. Bahrick, L. J. Gogate, and I. Ruiz (2002) demonstrated that 5-month-old infants discriminate and remember repetitive actions but not the faces of the women performing the actions. The present research tested an attentional salience explanation for these findings: that dynamic faces are discriminable to infants, but more salient actions compete for attention. Results demonstrated that 5-month-old infants discriminated faces in the context of actions when they had longer familiarization time (Experiment 1) and following habituation to a single person performing 3 different activities (Experiment 2). Further, 7-month-old infants who have had more experience with social events also discriminated faces in the context of actions. Overall, however, discrimination of actions was more robust and occurred earlier in processing time than discrimination of dynamic faces. These findings support an attentional salience hypothesis and indicate that faces are not special in the context of actions in early infancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Attention*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Motion Perception*
  • Orientation
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Psychomotor Performance