Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

3-16-2015

Degree Program

Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

May

Advisor Name

Lisa

Advisor Middle Initial

S.

Advisor Last Name

Scott

Third Advisor Name

Erik

Third Advisor Last Name

Cheries

Fourth Advisor Name

Nilanjana

Fourth Advisor Last Name

Dasgupta

Abstract

In their first year, infants’ ability to follow eye gaze to allocate attention shifts from being a response to low-level perceptual cues, to a deeper understanding of social intent. By 4 months infants look longer to uncued versus cued targets following a gaze cuing event, suggesting that infants better encode targets cued by shifts in eye gaze compared to targets not cued by eye gaze. From 6 to 9 months of age infants develop biases in face processing such that they show increased differentiation of faces within highly familiar groups (e.g., own-race) and a decreased differentiation of faces within unfamiliar or infrequently experienced groups (e.g., other-race). Although the development of cued object learning and face biases are both important social processes, they have primarily been studied independently. The current study examined whether early face processing biases for familiar compared to unfamiliar groups influences object encoding within the context of a gaze-cuing paradigm. Five- and 10-month-old infants viewed videos of adults, who varied by race and sex, shift their eye gaze towards one of two objects. The two objects were then presented side-by-side and fixation duration for the cued and uncued object was measured. Results revealed 5-month-old infants look significantly longer to uncued versus cued objects when the cuing face was a female. Additionally, 10-month-old infants displayed significantly longer looking to the uncued relative to the cued object when the cuing face was a female and from the infant’s own-race group. These findings are the first to demonstrate that perceptual narrowing based on sex and race shape infants’ use of social cues for allocating visual attention to objects in their environment.

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