The development of face perception in infancy: intersensory interference and unimodal visual facilitation

Dev Psychol. 2013 Oct;49(10):1919-30. doi: 10.1037/a0031238. Epub 2012 Dec 17.


Although research has demonstrated impressive face perception skills of young infants, little attention has focused on conditions that enhance versus impair infant face perception. The present studies tested the prediction, generated from the intersensory redundancy hypothesis (IRH), that face discrimination, which relies on detection of visual featural information, would be impaired in the context of intersensory redundancy provided by audiovisual speech and enhanced in the absence of intersensory redundancy (unimodal visual and asynchronous audiovisual speech) in early development. Later in development, following improvements in attention, faces should be discriminated in both redundant audiovisual and nonredundant stimulation. Results supported these predictions. Two-month-old infants discriminated a novel face in unimodal visual and asynchronous audiovisual speech but not in synchronous audiovisual speech. By 3 months, face discrimination was evident even during synchronous audiovisual speech. These findings indicate that infant face perception is enhanced and emerges developmentally earlier following unimodal visual than synchronous audiovisual exposure and that intersensory redundancy generated by naturalistic audiovisual speech can interfere with face processing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Statistics as Topic