NIH Research Festival
For adults and infants alike, vertical symmetry is associated with a range of processing advantages. To better understand the mechanisms involved, this work examined relations between infants’ eye movements and their processing of vertical symmetry. Five-month-olds viewed monochromatic images depicting 2 patterns and 2 faces while fixation was measured with an eye tracking system. Stimuli were presented under 3 conditions of symmetry: symmetric about the vertical axis, symmetric about an oblique axis, and asymmetric. Each pattern and face had identical components across conditions, but component arrangement differed. Infants shifted fixation significantly less frequently when viewing vertically symmetric patterns than when viewing those of the other two conditions. Likewise, Infants shifted fixation less in response to vertically symmetric faces than the other two conditions. Vertical symmetry appears to reduce the frequency and distribution of fixations in infants’ visual exploration of patterns and faces. A related question is if infants’ detection of vertical symmetry depends on visual scanning. Using the same stimuli, 5-month-olds were presented with each image over a series of very brief presentation (500 ms). Infants’ looking at the stimulus monitor was coded continuously through each series, and 12 such series were administered. The analysis of looking at patterns revealed no differences. The analysis of looking at faces, however, revealed longer looking at vertical faces than at oblique and asymmetric faces. This suggests that infants’ detection of vertical symmetry in novel patterns appears dependent on connected eye movements whereas the symmetry of human faces appears evident within brief individual fixations.
Scientific Focus Area: Social and Behavioral Sciences
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