Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Infants’ responses to interactive gaze-contingent faces in a novel and naturalistic eye-tracking paradigm

Keemink, J. R., Keshavarzi-Pour, M. J., Kelly, David J. (2019) Infants’ responses to interactive gaze-contingent faces in a novel and naturalistic eye-tracking paradigm. Developmental Psychology, 55 (7). pp. 1362-1371. ISSN 0012-1649. (doi:10.1037/dev0000736) (KAR id:73243)


Background: Face-scanning is an important skill that takes place in a highly interactive context embedded within social interaction. However, previous research has studied face-scanning using non-interactive stimuli. We aimed to study face-scanning and social interaction in infancy in a more ecologically valid way by providing infants with a naturalistic and socially engaging experience.

Methods: We developed a novel gaze-contingent eye-tracking paradigm in which infants could interact with face-stimuli. Responses (socially engaging/socially disengaging) from faces were contingent on infants’ eye movements. We collected eye-tracking and behavioral data of 162 (79 male, 83 female) 6-, 9- and 12-month-olds.

Results: All infants showed a clear preference for looking at the eyes relative to the mouth. Contingency was learned implicitly and infants were more likely to show behavioral responses (e.g. smiling, pointing) when receiving socially engaging responses. Infants’ responses were also more often congruent with the actors’ responses than incongruent. Additionally, our large sample allowed us to look at the ranges of behavior on our task and we identified a small number of infants who displayed deviant behaviors. We discuss these findings in relation to data collected from a small sample (N=11) of infants considered to be ‘at-risk’ for autism spectrum disorders.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate the versatility of the gaze-contingency eye-tracking paradigm, allowing for a more nuanced and complex investigation of face-scanning as it happens in real-life interaction. As we provide additional measures of contingency learning and reciprocity, our task holds the potential to investigate atypical neurodevelopment within the first year of life.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1037/dev0000736
Uncontrolled keywords: Face scanning, gaze-contingent, eye-tracking, autism spectrum disorder, infant siblings, early detection
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: David Kelly
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2019 08:51 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 21:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.