Cues for early social skills: direct gaze modulates newborns' recognition of talking faces

PLoS One. 2011 Apr 15;6(4):e18610. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018610.


Previous studies showed that, from birth, speech and eye gaze are two important cues in guiding early face processing and social cognition. These studies tested the role of each cue independently; however, infants normally perceive speech and eye gaze together. Using a familiarization-test procedure, we first familiarized newborn infants (n = 24) with videos of unfamiliar talking faces with either direct gaze or averted gaze. Newborns were then tested with photographs of the previously seen face and of a new one. The newborns looked longer at the face that previously talked to them, but only in the direct gaze condition. These results highlight the importance of both speech and eye gaze as socio-communicative cues by which infants identify others. They suggest that gaze and infant-directed speech, experienced together, are powerful cues for the development of early social skills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cues*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Time Factors