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Experience And Emotional Face Processing In Infancy

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posted on 22.05.2021, 14:15 authored by Kristina Safar
Experience is suggested to shape the development of emotion processing abilities in infancy. The current dissertation investigated the influence of familiarity with particular face types and emotional faces on emotional face processing within the first year of life using a variety of metrics. The first study examined whether experience with a particular face type (own- vs. other-race faces) affected 6- and 9-month-old infants’ attentional looking preference to fearful facial expressions in a visual paired-comparison (VPC) task. Six-month-old infants showed an attentional preference for fearful over happy facial expressions when expressed by own-race faces, but not other race-faces, whereas 9-month-old infants showed an attentional preference for fearful expressions when expressed by both own-race and other-race faces, suggesting that experience influences how infants deploy their attention to different facial expressions. Using a longitudinal design, the second study examined whether exposure to emotional faces via picture book training at 3 months of age affected infants’ allocation of attention to fearful over happy facial expressions in both a VPC and ERP task at 5 months of age. In the VPC task, 3- and 5-month-olds without exposure to emotional faces demonstrated greater allocation of attention to fearful facial expressions. Differential exposure to emotional faces revealed a potential effect of training: 5-month-olds infants who experienced fearful faces showed an attenuated preference for fearful facial expressions compared to infants who experienced happy faces or no training. Three- and 5-month-old infants did not, however, show differential neural processing of happy and fearful facial expressions. The third study examined whether 5- and 7-month-old infants can match fearful and happy faces and voices in an intermodal preference task, and whether exposure to happy or fearful faces influences this ability. Neither 5- nor 7-month-old infants showed intermodal matching of happy or fearful facial expressions, regardless of exposure to emotional faces. Overall, results from this series of studies add to our understanding of how experience influences the development of emotional face processing in infancy.





Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type