Can infants’ orientation to social stimuli predict later joint attention skills?


Correspondence should be addressed to Inge Schietecatte, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9,000 Ghent, Belgium (e-mail:


From the moment infants are born, they seem to prefer orienting to social stimuli, over objects and non-social stimuli. This preference lasts throughout adulthood and is believed to play a crucial role in social-communicative development. By following up a group of infants at the age of 6, 8, and 12 months, this study explored the role of social orienting in the early development of joint attention skills. The expected association between social orienting and joint attention was partially confirmed. Social orienting in real-life photographs of everyday situations was not related to later joint attention skills, however fixation to the eyes in a neutral face was related to response to joint attention skills, and fixation to the eyes in a dynamic video clip of a talking person was predictive of initiating joint attention skills. Several alternative interpretations of the results are discussed.