The research by University of Washington psychologists Rechele Brooks and Andrew Meltzoff reveals the importance of eyes to12-, 14- and 18-month-old infants and shows that they are much more likely to look at an object when a person turns toward it with open eyes rather than closed. Not only that, but the study also shows that infants gazed at the object longer when the person looked at it with open eyes, and the infants initiated more vocalizing and pointing toward the object.
In addition, the study, published in the current issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, indicates that by the age of 14 months infants become sensitive to things that may obstruct another person's view. The infants were more likely to look at an object when a person was wearing a headband rather than a blindfold that blocked the person's view.
"Our work shows children are clued into the social world and are taking into account what other people are perceiving," said Brooks, who is a research associate at the UW's Center for Mind, Brain & Learning. "They are not off on their own, but are solving puzzles with the help of others. They are noting subtle differences and modifying their behavior."
"This work is important because following another person's line of sight is crucial for learning about language and understanding the emotions of other people," said Meltzoff, co-director of the center and a UW psychology professor.
Brooks and Meltzoff refer to the behavior of a person looking where another has just looked as "gaze following," and psychologists have known for some time that among adults detecting the direction of another's glance is a crucial component of human social interactions. The concept of joint attention, or two people looking at and understanding tha
Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington