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Look up to the body: an eye-tracking investigation of 7-months-old infants' visual exploration of emotion body expressions

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Publication details

JournalInfant Behavior and Development
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Jul 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2020
DatePublished (current) - Aug 2020
Early online date30/07/20
Original languageEnglish


The human body is an important source of information to infer a person’s emotional state. Research with adult observers indicate that the posture of the torso, arms and hands provide important perceptual cues for recognising anger, fear and happy expressions. Much less is known about whether infants process body regions differently for different body expressions. To address this issue, we used eye tracking to investigate whether infants’ visual exploration patterns differed when viewing body expressions. Forty-eight 7-months-old infants were randomly presented with static images of adult female bodies expressing anger, fear and happiness, as well as an emotionally-neutral posture. Facial cues to emotional state were removed by masking the faces. We measured the proportion of looking time, proportion and number of fixations, and duration of fixations on the head, upper body and lower body regions for the different expressions. We showed that infants explored the upper body more than the lower body. Importantly, infants at this age fixated differently on different body regions depending on the expression of the body posture. In particular, infants spent a larger proportion of their looking times and had longer fixation durations on the upper body for fear relative to the other expressions. These results extend and replicate the information about infant processing of emotional expressions displayed by human bodies, and they support the hypothesis that infants’ visual exploration of human bodies is driven by the upper body.

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© Elsevier B.V., 2020. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • infancy, emotion expressions, eye-tracking, body

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