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Biracial and monoracial infant own-race face perception: an eye tracking study


Sarah E. Gaither, Department of Psychology, Tufts University, 490 Boston Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA; e-mail:


We know that early experience plays a crucial role in the development of face processing, but we know little about how infants learn to distinguish faces from different races, especially for non-Caucasian populations. Moreover, it is unknown whether differential processing of different race faces observed in typically studied monoracial infants extends to biracial infants as well. Thus, we investigated 3-month-old Caucasian, Asian and biracial (Caucasian-Asian) infants’ ability to distinguish Caucasian and Asian faces. Infants completed two within-subject, infant-controlled habituation sequences and test trials as an eye tracker recorded looking times and scanning patterns. Examination of individual differences revealed significant positive correlations between own-race novelty preference and scanning frequency between eye and mouth regions of own-race habituation stimuli for Caucasian and Asian infants, suggesting that facility in own-race face discrimination stems from active inspection of internal facial features in these groups. Biracial infants, however, showed the opposite effect: An ‘own-race’ novelty preference was associated with reduced scanning between eye and mouth regions of ‘own-race’ habituation stimuli, suggesting that biracial infants use a distinct approach to processing frequently encountered faces. Future directions for investigating face processing development in biracial populations are discussed.

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