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Biological motion preference in humans at birth: role of dynamic and configural properties


Lara Bardi, Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padova, Italy; e-mail:


The present study addresses the hypothesis that detection of biological motion is an intrinsic capacity of the visual system guided by a non-species-specific predisposition for the pattern of vertebrate movement and investigates the role of global vs. local information in biological motion detection. Two-day-old babies exposed to a biological motion point-light display (depicting a walking hen) and a non-biological motion display (a rotating rigid object) preferentially looked at the biological display (Experiment 1). A new group of newborns showed themselves to be capable of discriminating, following habituation, a biological motion display from a spatially scrambled version of it (Experiment 2). However, a third group of newborns, at their first exposure to such displays, did not show any preference between them (Experiment 3). Results confirm and extend previous comparative and developmental data, supporting an inborn predisposition to attend to biological motion in humans. This ability is presumably part of an evolutionarily ancient and non-species-specific system predisposing animals to preferentially attend to other animals.