Faces in early visual environments are persistent not just frequent

Swapnaa Jayaraman, Linda B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The regularities in very young infants' visual worlds likely have out-sized effects on the development of the visual system because they comprise the first-in experience that tunes, maintains, and specifies the neural substrate from low-level to higher-level representations and therefore constitute the starting point for all other visual learning. Recent evidence from studies using head cameras suggests that the frequency of faces available in early infant visual environments declines over the first year and a half of life. The primary question for the present paper concerns the temporal structure of face experiences: Is frequency the key exposure dimension distinguishing younger and older infants' face experiences, or is it the duration for which faces remain in view? Our corpus of head-camera images collected as infants went about their daily activities consisted of over a million individually coded frames sampled at 0.2 Hz from 232 h of infant-perspective scenes, recorded from 51 infants aged 1 month to 15 months. The major finding from this corpus is that very young infants (1-3 months) not only have more frequent face experiences but also more temporally persistent ones. The repetitions of the same very few face identities presenting up-close and frontal views are exaggerated in more persistent runs of the same face, and these persistent runs are more frequent for the youngest infants. The implications of early experiences consisting of extended repeated exposures of up-close frontal views for visual learning are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-221
Number of pages9
JournalVision Research
Early online date20 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

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