Infants Experience Perceptual Narrowing for Nonprimate Faces

Elizabeth A. Simpson, Krisztina Varga, Janet E. Frick, Dorothy Fragaszy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Perceptual narrowing-a phenomenon in which perception is broad from birth, but narrows as a function of experience-has previously been tested with primate faces. In the first 6months of life, infants can discriminate among individual human and monkey faces. Though the ability to discriminate monkey faces is lost after about 9months, infants retain human face discrimination, presumably because of their experience with human faces. The current study demonstrates that 4- to 6-month-old infants are able to discriminate nonprimate faces as well. In a visual paired comparison test, 4- to 6-month-old infants (n=26) looked significantly longer at novel sheep (Ovis aries) faces, compared to a familiar sheep face (p=017), while 9- to 11-month-olds (n=26) showed no visual preference, and adults (n=27) had a familiarity preference (p<.001). Infants' face recognition systems are broadly tuned at birth-not just for primate faces, but for nonprimate faces as well-allowing infants to become specialists in recognizing the types of faces encountered in their first year of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-328
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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