The rapid development of explicit gaze judgment ability at 3 years

Martin J. Doherty, James R. Anderson, Lynne Howieson

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Two studies examined development of the ability to judge what another person is looking at. In Study 1, 54 2- to 4-year-olds judged where someone was looking in real-life, photograph, and drawing formats. A minority of 2-year-olds, but a majority of older children, passed all tasks, suggesting that the ability arises at around 3 years of age. Study 2 examined the fine-grained gaze judgment of 76 3- to 6-year-olds and 15 adults using gaze differences of 10° and 15°. Development of gaze judgment was gradual, from chance at 3 years of age to near adult-level performance at 6 years of age. Although performance was better when a congruent head turn was included, 3-year-olds were still at chance on 10° head turn trials. The findings suggest that the ability to explicitly judge gaze is novel at 3 years of age and develops slowly thereafter. Therefore, the ability does not develop out of earlier gaze following. General implications for the evolution and development of gaze processing are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-312
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009

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