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Does Visual Attention at Eyes and Mouth Correlate with Performance in a Neonatal Imitation Task? A Preliminary Analysis.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 — Poster Session IV

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Natcher Conference Center, Building 45




  • A. Paukner
  • E.A. Simpson
  • P.F. Ferrari
  • S.J. Suomi


Some rhesus macaque infants imitate facial gestures, others do not. To date, we have found little evidence for a quantitative difference in attention during neonatal imitation assessments. Here we investigated whether there is a qualitative difference in scan patterns between imitators and non-imitators, particularly with regards to what parts of the face are preferentially attended. Twenty-nine infant rhesus macaques were tested in a neonatal imitation paradigm in the first week of life, and were classified as either imitators or non-imitators. Between 10-30 days old, they were shown a video of an animated adult macaque, showing a still face (20 sec) and lipsmacking gestures (20 sec). Visual attention was measured using Tobii T60XL eye tracking technology. Infants generally looked more at the eyes than the mouth, and they increased looking at the mouth during the lipsmacking phase. Preliminary analyses suggest that imitators are more attracted to the eye area, particularly during the still face phase, and that non-imitators are more focused on the mouth area throughout the trial. These results suggest that absence of neonatal imitation might be related to differences in the focus of social attention, and invite speculations about similar patterns found in human children with autism spectrum disorder.

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