This thesis aims to study how infants actively look at different social figures: parents and strangers. To study infants’ looking behavior in “live” situations, new methods to record looking behavior were tested.
Study 1 developed a method to record looking behavior in “live” situations: a head-mounted camera. This method was calibrated for a number of angles and then used to measure how infants look at faces and objects in two “live” situations, a conversation and a joint action. High reliability was found for the head-mounted camera in horizontal positions and the possibility of using it in a number of “live” situations with infants from 6 to 14 months of age.
In Study 2, the head-mounted camera and a static camera and were used in a “live” ambiguous situation to study infants’ preferences to refer to and to use the information from parents and strangers. The results from Experiment 1 of Study 2 showed that if no information is provided in ambiguous situations in the lab, infants at 10 months of age look more at the experimenter than at the parent. Further, Experiment 2 of Study 2 showed that the infants also used more of the emotional information provided by the experimenter than by the parent to regulate their behavior.
In Study 3, looking behavior was analyzed in detail when infants looked at pictures of their parents’ and strangers’ emotional facial expressions. Corneal eye tracking was used to record looking. In this study, the influence of identity, gender, emotional expressions and parental leave on looking behavior was analyzed. The results indicated that identity and experience of looking at others influences how infants discriminate emotions in pictures of facial expressions. Fourteen-month-old infants who had been with both parents in parental leave discriminated more emotional expressions in strangers than infants who only had one parent on leave. Further, they reacted with larger pupil dilation toward the parent who was actually in parental leave than to the parent not on leave. Finally, fearful emotional expressions were more broadly scanned than neutral or happy facial expressions.
The results of these studies indicate that infants discriminate between mothers’, fathers’ and strangers’ emotional facial expressions and use the other people’s expressions to regulate their behavior. In addition, a new method, a head-mounted camera was shown to capture infants’ looking behavior in “live” situations.