Human body postures provide perceptual cues that can be used to discriminate and recognize emotions. It was previously found that 7-months-olds’ fixation patterns discriminated fear from other emotion body expressions but it is not clear whether they also process the emotional content of those expressions. The emotional content of visual stimuli can increase arousal level resulting in pupil dilations. To provide evidence that infants also process the emotional content of expressions, we analysed variations in pupil in response to emotion stimuli. Forty-eight 7-months-old infants viewed adult body postures expressing anger, fear, happiness and neutral expressions, while their pupil size was measured. There was a significant emotion effect between 1040 and 1640 ms after image onset, when fear elicited larger pupil dilations than neutral expressions. A similar trend was found for anger expressions. Our results suggest that infants have increased arousal to negative-valence body expressions. Thus, in combination with previous fixation results, the pupil data show that infants as young as 7-months can perceptually discriminate static body expressions and process the emotional content of those expressions. The results extend information about infant processing of emotion expressions conveyed through other means (e.g., faces).
Bibliographical note© 2023 The Authors.
- pupil dilation
- body expression
- eye tracking