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Facing threat: Infants' and adults' visual scanning of faces with neutral, happy, sad, angry, and fearful emotional expressions
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2011 (English)In: Cognition & Emotion, ISSN 0269-9931, E-ISSN 1464-0600, Vol. 25, no 2, 193-205 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Human faces are among the most important visual stimuli that we encounter at all ages. This importance partly stems from the face as a conveyer of information on the emotional state of other individuals. Previous research has demonstrated specific scanning patterns in response to threat-related compared to non-threat-related emotional expressions. This study investigated how visual scanning patterns toward faces which display different emotional expressions develop during infancy. The visual scanning patterns of 4-month-old and 7-month-old infants and adults when looking at threat-related (i.e., angry and fearful) versus non-threat-related (i.e., happy, sad, and neutral) emotional faces were examined. We found that infants as well as adults displayed an avoidant looking pattern in response to threat-related emotional expressions with reduced dwell times and relatively less fixations to the inner features of the face. In addition, adults showed a pattern of eye contact avoidance when looking at threat-related emotional expressions that was not yet present in infants. Thus, whereas a general avoidant reaction to threat-related facial expressions appears to be present from very early in life, the avoidance of eye contact might be a learned response toward others' anger and fear that emerges later during development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 25, no 2, 193-205 p.
Keyword [en]
Visual scanning, Infants, Facial expression, Emotional expression, Threat
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-150768DOI: 10.1080/15298861003771189ISI: 000286889600001PubMedID: 21432667OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-150768DiVA: diva2:408716
Available from: 2011-04-06 Created: 2011-04-06 Last updated: 2011-04-06Bibliographically approved

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