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Neural evidence for the impact of facial trustworthiness on object processing in a gaze-cueing task in 7-month-old infants

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Jessen,  Sarah
Department of Neurology, University of Lübeck, Germany;
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Grossmann,  Tobias
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA;

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Citation

Jessen, S., & Grossmann, T. (2020). Neural evidence for the impact of facial trustworthiness on object processing in a gaze-cueing task in 7-month-old infants. Social Neuroscience, 15(1), 74-82. doi:10.1080/17470919.2019.1651764.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-9075-5
Abstract
Humans automatically judge a person's trustworthiness solely based on facial features and use these judgments to inform subsequent behavior. While recent studies demonstrate that already infants are sensitive to variance in facial trustworthiness, it remains unclear whether this variance also influences subsequent socio-cognitive processes. We investigated event-related brain responses (ERPs) to faces varying in trustworthiness in a gaze-cueing paradigm in 7-month-old infants. Our analysis focused on the ERP responses to cued or un-cued objects shown in isolation after the gaze-cue was presented. We observed an enhanced occipital positive slow wave (PSW) to un-cued compared to cued objects, suggesting a gaze-cueing effect irrespective of facial trustworthiness. Furthermore, objects in the un-cued condition elicited a larger fronto-central Nc when the gaze cue was provided by trustworthy compared to untrustworthy faces. This pattern suggests that while gaze cueing occurs irrespective of facial trustworthiness, allocation of attention, as indexed by modulation of the Nc amplitude, varies as a function of trustworthiness. Taken together, our results show that facial trustworthiness impacts object processing in the context of a gaze cueing paradigm, adding to the notion that it serves as an important social cue from early in ontogeny.