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Document Type

Open Access

Degree Program

Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2012

Month Degree Awarded

February

Keywords

Infancy, Emotion, EEG, Race, Face Processing

Abstract

During the first year of life, infants’ capacities for face processing are shaped by experience with faces in their environment; a process known as perceptual narrowing. Perceptual narrowing has been found to lead to a decline in infants’ abilities to identify and differentiate faces of other races. In the current study, it is hypothesized that this decline may also lead to differential processing of emotion information in own- versus other-race faces. In the current research, we recorded electrophysiological data (Event-related potential; ERP) from 5- and 9-month-old infants while they were presented with paired emotion non-verbal sounds and faces. ERPs in response to the sounds suggest that both 5- and 9-month old infants differentiate happy and sad sounds. The pattern of results, however, is different across ages. ERPs in response to the faces suggest that whereas 5-month-olds exhibit differential responses to happy and sad faces for both the N290 and P400 components, 9-month-olds did not differentiate happy and sad faces. Nine-month old infants did exhibit a great P400 in response to own- relative to other-race faces. These results suggest that although both 5- and 9-month olds differentiate happy and sad emotional sounds, their processing of emotion faces differs.

First Advisor

Lisa S Scott

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