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    Preferential looking to eyes versus mouth in early infancy: Heritability and link to concurrent and later development

    Viktorsson, C. and Portugal, A.M. and Li, D. and Rudling, M. and Siqueiros Sanchez, M. and Tammimies, K. and Taylor, M.J. and Ronald, Angelica and Falck-Ytter, T. (2022) Preferential looking to eyes versus mouth in early infancy: Heritability and link to concurrent and later development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , ISSN 0021-9630.

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    Background: From birth, infants orient preferentially to faces, and when looking at the face, they attend primarily to eyes and mouth. These areas convey different types of information, and earlier research suggests that genetic factors influence the preference for one or the other in young children. Methods: In a sample of 535 5-month-old infant twins, we assessed eye (relative to mouth) preference in early infancy, i.e., before neural systems for social communication and language are fully developed. We investigated the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the preference for looking at eyes, and the association with concurrent traits and follow-up measures. Results: Eye preference was independent from all other concurrent traits measured, and had a moderate-to-high contribution from genetic influences (A = .57; 95% CI: .45, .66). Preference for eyes at 5 months was associated with higher parent ratings of receptive vocabulary at 14 months. No statistically significant association with later autistic traits was found. Preference for eyes was strikingly stable across different stimulus types (e.g. dynamic versus still), suggesting that infants’ preference at this age does not reflect sensitivity to low-level visual cues. Conclusions: These results suggest that individual differences in infants’ preferential looking to eyes versus mouth to a substantial degree reflect genetic variation. The findings provide new leads on both the perceptual basis and the developmental consequences of these attentional biases.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): twin design, visual attention, eye-mouth-index, language comprehension
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Angelica Ronald
    Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2022 16:25
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:19


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