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Psychophysical thresholds of face visibility during infancy

Elsevier B.V.
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.09.012
  • Infants
  • Face Processing
  • Visibility
  • Masking
  • Psychophysics


Abstract The ability to detect and focus on faces is a fundamental prerequisite for developing social skills. But how well can infants detect faces? Here, we address this question by studying the minimum duration at which faces must appear to trigger a behavioral response in infants. We used a preferential looking method in conjunction with masking and brief presentations (300 ms and below) to establish the temporal thresholds of visibility at different stages of development. We found that 5 and 10 month-old infants have remarkably similar visibility thresholds about three times higher than those of adults. By contrast, 15 month-olds not only revealed adult-like thresholds, but also improved their performance through memory-based strategies. Our results imply that the development of face visibility follows a non-linear course and is determined by a radical improvement occurring between 10 and 15 months.

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