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Flashcards in Attractive faces, emotions and autism Deck (15):

Langlois et al.,

Werker and Kuhl tested the ability of infants of different ages to discriminate speech sounds. The infants were all from English speaking homes and were tested with speech contrasts that are not used in English but are important in two other languages. The babies learnt that whenever they heard a change in the series of sounds they were listening to they could see an interesting sight by turning their head to one side. Thus, discrimination between the speech sounds was inferred if the infants quickly turned their heads in the correct direction following a sound change. By 6-8 months of age infants readily discriminated between the sounds that they heard. By 10-12 months however, the infants no longer perceived the differences they detected a few months before. Thus, infants are born with the ability to discriminate between speech sounds in any language, but they gradually begin to specialise, retaining their sensitivity to sounds in their native language. Also demonstrates the use-it-or-lose-it phenomenon.


thatcher illusion

Thatcher Illusion means that it is harder to tell the attractiveness of a person when they are upside down. This is because when they are upright configural face processing is able to work, but when they are inverted configural face processing is interrupted. Thus attractiveness might be something to do with how your features are spaced. However, the inversion may lead to a decline in preference as the faces are no longer top heavy and so the domain-general bias towards faces may be eliminated


Langlois - prototypical

Another theory proposed by Langlois is that attractive faces are perhaps just more average – they are more prototypical. A prototype is the central tendency of the mean of the population e.g. the best example of something. Thus a prototypical face is the one that is most representative of the population and will be judged as more attractive. However, how would babies know what the average of faces are? It is therefore suggested that there is either an innate prototype or the prototype is learnt very quickly for the average of the faces that they will usually see.



To test whether 6 month olds can form prototypes of faces, Rubenstein et al., showed infants eight different attractive female faces in order to familiarize them with the faces. They then tested whether a prototype created by averaging the eight female faces together seemed familiar to the infants. According to prototype theory, if babies have the ability to form prototypes by averaging the faces together, the prototype face should seem even more familiar than any of the faces the baby saw because it is similar to each of the faces and is this easily recognised by virtue of this similarity. Indeed, this is exactly what Rubenstein’s study found. Prototype faces were more familiar to the infants than either a novel female face or the individual faces the infants originally saw. The results show that by 6 months of age infants have the ability to create prototypes of female faces.


male prototypes

Interestingly however, young infants are unable to form prototypes of male faces, which may explain why infants do not demonstrate robust preferences for attractive males. The majority of infants have female primary caregivers and therefore their natural prototypical representation is likely very female like, making it difficult for infants to form a male facial prototype.


attractive categorisation

In addition by 6 months of age, infants can categorize female faces according to their attractiveness. After seeing a series of attractive female faces, 6 month olds treated novel attractive female faces as similar but treated novel unattractive female faces as different. These results suggest that infants categorized attractive faces as one group and unattractive female faces as another group.


attractive preference innate?

For example, one study has found that even newborns as young as 72 hours old prefer attractive faces over unattractive faces. However, this time span may have given them plenty of opportunity to see many faces prior to testing and so they may have formed this prototype very quickly. A study by Langlois who tested infants preferences at just 15 minutes old found no preference.


walker andrews?

Walker-Andrews argued that if an infant understands emotion then they should be able to match the emotion in a face to the emotion in a voice. Thus, to understand emotions, you must be able to understand the emotion across different stimuli. They had 7 and 5 month infants and showed them a film of a face and it was either happy or angry and they covered up the lower part of the face so the infant couldn’t see the mouth – so that the infants weren’t able to match the vocal tract by looking at the lip movements. So they can see the top half of the face and hear a vocal tract that is either happy or sad. The results suggested that the 7 month and not the 5 month infants looked longer when the vocal tract and the face were congruent rather than when they were incongruent. This matching of the face and voice is called intermodal matching and suggests that infants at this age may construe meaning from emotional expressions. However, there might be different cues in the top half of the face that match the emotion to the



However, infants do exhibit appropriate behaviours in response to facial expressions. Serrano, argued that to determine whether or not infants understand behaviour is to focus on their reaction to that emotion. He showed photos of happy, angry and neutral faces and looked at how they reacted to those faces. Results found that if you show an infant a happy face they will make an approach movement (head, trunk, limbs move towards the face) and if you show them an angry face they will perform an avoidance movement and move backwards whilst frowning and protruding lips. And neither response will occur if you show them a neutral photo. These responses occur at around 4-9 months.


De Haan

De Haan found that infants with a mother with a happy and positive emotional state, the infants brain activity was stronger to a fearful stimuli than if their mother was depressed. Thus, if you are raised by a positive and happy mum you wont often see negative facial expressions so when you see the fearful face it will evoke a very strong neural response. Whereas the infants of the mothers who are depressed perhaps are most used to the negative facial expressions and so will get a more dulled response.


what is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, there is genetic susceptibility to autism, if one child has autism the other has a 1/10 chance of also having autism. There are three defining characteristics; 1. Impaired social interaction. 2. Impaired communication and 3. Restricted and repetitive interests e.g. obsessions like trains or certain characters in book. There are various subtypes of autism – autistic disorder which is the most severe form, Aspergers which is autism but there is no language delay and PDDNOS – Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.


three core diagnostic features of autism?

Classic autism syndrome has three core diagnostic features: difficulties in social development, and in the development of communication, alongside unusually strong, narrow interests and repetitive behaviour.


joint attention in autism?

A typical 14-month-old shows joint attention (such as pointing or following another person’s gaze), during which they not only look at another person’s face and eyes, but pay attention to what the other person is interested in. Children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome show reduced (Baron-Cohen).


facial expressions and autism?

The typical nine-year-old can interpret another person’s expressions from their eyes, to figure out what they might be thinking or feeling. Children with Asperger’s syndrome tend to find such tests far more difficult (Baron-Cohen)


social scenes and autism?

While viewing social scenes, eye-tracking technology measured visual fixations in 15 cognitively able males with autism and control subjects. They coded fixations on 4 regions: mouth, eyes, body, and objects. There were significant between-group differences were obtained for all 4 regions. The best predictor of autism was reduced eye region fixation time. They found that when viewing naturalistic social situations, individuals with autism demonstrate abnormal patterns of social visual pursuit consistent with reduced salience of eyes and increased salience of mouths, bodies, and objects. Fixation times on mouths and objects but not on eyes are strong predictors of degree of social competence. Increased focus on mouths predicted improved social adjustment and less autistic social impairment, whereas more time on objects predicted the opposite relationship.