Faces attract infants' attention in complex displays

Teodora Gliga, Mayada Elsabbagh, Athina Andravizou, Mark Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Infant's face preferences have previously been assessed in displays containing 1 or 2 faces. Here we present 6-month-old infants with a complex visual array containing faces among multiple visual objects. Despite the competing objects, infants direct their first saccade toward faces more frequently than expected by chance (Experiment 1). The attention-grabbing effect of faces is not selective to upright faces (Experiment 2) but does require the presence of internal facial elements, as faces whose interior has been phase-scrambled did not attract infants' attention (Experiment 3). On the contrary, when the number of fixations is considered, upright faces are scanned more extensively than both inverted and phase-scrambled faces. The difference in selectivity between the first look measure and the fixation count measure is discussed in light of a distinction between attention-grabbing and attention-holding mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-562
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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