Abstract # 109:

Scheduled for Friday, June 21, 2013 11:00 AM-11:15 AM: Session 12 (Auditorium) Oral Presentation


VISUAL ATTENTION TO FACIAL GESTURES IN INFANT MACAQUES: SELECTIVE ATTENTION TO THE EYE REGION IN NEONATAL IMITATORS

A. Paukner1, E. A. Simpson1,2, P. F. Ferrari1,2 and S. J. Suomi1
1Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA, 2Universita di Parma, Parma, Italy
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     Macaque infants are capable of imitating facial gestures within the first days of life, however only about 50% of infants match facial gestures consistently. To date, and there is little indication of what may facilitate neonatal imitation. Here we investigated whether there is a qualitative difference in how imitators and non-imitators attend to facial gestures. Thirty-seven rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) were tested in a neonatal imitation task in the first week of life, and were classified as either imitators (N=16) or non-imitators (N=21). Between 10-28 days old, they were presented with a video of an animated adult macaque on a remote eye tracker, displaying a Still Face (SF) followed by lipsmacking (LPS) or tongue protrusion (TP). Data from fixations to the eye and mouth regions were analyzed. Repeated measures ANOVAs with Phase (SF, LPS, TP) as within-subject factor and Imitator/Non-Imitator as a between-subject factor revealed significant interactions for both frequency and durations of fixations, p<0.05. Post-hoc comparisons revealed that during the SF phase, imitators looked more at the eye region whereas non-imitators looked more at the mouth region. These results suggest that imitators may show higher levels of communicative preparedness by preferentially attending to other’s gaze prior to any interaction taking place. Neonatal imitation performance may thus be an early indicator of social attention biases, which can potentially affect an infant’s social and emotional development.