PLoS ONE 6(4): e18621. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018621
Caucasian Infants Scan Own- and Other-Race Faces Differently
Andrea Wheeler et al.
Young infants are known to prefer own-race faces to other race faces and recognize own-race faces better than other-race faces. However, it is entirely unclear as to whether infants also attend to different parts of own- and other-race faces differently, which may provide an important clue as to how and why the own-race face recognition advantage emerges so early. The present study used eye tracking methodology to investigate whether 6- to 10-month-old Caucasian infants (N = 37) have differential scanning patterns for dynamically displayed own- and other-race faces. We found that even though infants spent a similar amount of time looking at own- and other-race faces, with increased age, infants increasingly looked longer at the eyes of own-race faces and less at the mouths of own-race faces. These findings suggest experience-based tuning of the infant's face processing system to optimally process own-race faces that are different in physiognomy from other-race faces. In addition, the present results, taken together with recent own- and other-race eye tracking findings with infants and adults, provide strong support for an enculturation hypothesis that East Asians and Westerners may be socialized to scan faces differently due to each culture's conventions regarding mutual gaze during interpersonal communication.