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Volume 6 Issue 5 (November 2003), Pages 449-603

Biological bases of face preference in 6‐week‐old infants (pages 524-536)


Six‐week‐old infants (N =40) who started the experiment in either a calm or crying state, received sucrose from an experimenter, while in eye contact with her. Sucrose was delivered either by syringe or on a pacifier. After 3.5 min., the experimenter retired, the mother came into the test room and placed her infant over her shoulder en face with a video camera. The experimenter and a confederate, both dressed identically, sat in front of and slightly to either side of the infant and the infant could choose to look at either experimenter. To minimize position bias, experimenters switched sides every 30 sec. To maintain a stable level of infant attention, they simultaneously called the baby's name at 10 sec. intervals. When an infant looked at one or the other experimenters, she raised her thumb in camera view. Only crying infants who sucked a sweet pacifier showed a preference for their experimenter. As a group none of the other infants did so. However, there was a wide distribution of sucking times in calm week 6 infants. Choice was linearly related to sucking duration. Infants who sucked for substantial periods of time, showed a strong preference for the experimenter. Those who sucked for minimal periods of time strongly preferred the confederate. Based on these findings and ones from 9‐ and 12‐week‐old infants, a model is presented in which preference in this experimental paradigm is determined by idealized levels of central activation. These levels may be inferred from the normal crying function at a particular age.

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