Increased focus on the mouth among infants in the first year of life: A longitudinal eye-tracking study

Infancy. 2013 Jul;18(4):534-553. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-7078.2012.00135.x.


The present study examines face-scanning behaviors of infants at 6, 9, and 12 months as they watched videos of a woman describing an object in front of her. The videos were created to vary information in the mouth (speaking vs. smiling) and the eyes (gazing into the camera vs. cueing the infant with head turn or gaze direction to an object being described). Infants tended to divide their attention between the eyes and the mouth, looking less at the eyes with age and more at the mouth than the eyes at 9 and 12 months. Attention to the mouth was greater on speaking trials than on smiling trials at all three ages, and this difference increased between 6 and 9 months. Despite consistent results within subjects, there was considerable variation between subjects. This raises the question of whether a developmental "norm" of face scanning in infancy ought to be pursued. Rather, these data add to emerging evidence suggesting that individual differences in face scanning might reliably predict aspects of later development.

Keywords: Infants; eye tracking; face scanning.