Sorry, Baby: Infant Faces Reach Awareness More Slowly Than Adult Faces
Past research has found an attentional bias for positive relative to neutral stimuli, with a greater attentional bias for stimuli that are more motivationally relevant. Baby faces are an example of a motivationally relevant stimulus because they elicit caretaking behaviors. Building on previous work demonstrating that baby faces capture attention, the current study used breaking continuous flash suppression (bCFS) to investigate whether infant faces are prioritized for access to awareness. On each trial of the task, a face was shown to one eye and a rapidly changing Mondrian pattern to the other. Participants were asked to report the location of the face as soon as it emerged from suppression. The faces were either infant or adult faces, presented in upright or inverted orientation. Despite evidence suggesting that infant faces might reach awareness more quickly than adult faces, the opposite was found: Adult faces reached awareness more quickly than infant faces. Moreover, a stronger face inversion effect was observed for adult versus infant faces, indicating that the shorter suppression times for adult faces were due to increased expertise with adult faces. A past bCFS study demonstrated an own-age face effect for young adults, but it left open the possibility that this effect was due to the youthful appearance of the young versus old faces. The current results rule out this possibility and provide further support for the idea that experience with faces of one's own social group facilitates the access of those faces to awareness.
Stein, Timo, Lillian Tyack, and Sara C. Verosky. 2021. "Sorry, Baby: Infant Faces Reach Awareness More Slowly Than Adult Faces." Emotion 21(4): 823-829.
American Psychological Association
Affect, Attractiveness, Baby faces, Breaking continuous flash suppression, Own-age bias