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Look up to the body. An eye-tracking investigation of 7-months-old infants’ visual exploration of emotional body expressions

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Quoc Vuong



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Elsevier Ltd, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Geangu E, Vuong QC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Infant Behavior and Development

Year: 2020

Volume: 60

Print publication date: 01/08/2020

Online publication date: 30/07/2020

Acceptance date: 27/07/2020

Date deposited: 30/07/2020

ISSN (print): 0163-6383

ISSN (electronic): 1879-0453

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2020.101473


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