Eye Contact Detections from Birth

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Jamie Nosack
Dr. Nancy Tobler
Communications 2110
October 20, 2009
Eye Contact Detections from Birth
One of the most powerful communication tools is eye contact. When used effectively, eye gaze can “provide information, regulate interaction, express intimacy, display social control, and facilitate service and task goals” (Kleinke). There's something about that interpersonal link that even infants are able to decipher. Identifying others' introverted emotions from their extroverted facial expressions is an important developmental skill. This association may have an impact on an individual's social interaction later in life. It is arguable that infants who were more neglected, or less frequently interacted with, grow-up to be less social. The studies conducted by Teresa Farroni, Gergely Csibra, Francesca Simion, and Mark Johnson test newborns' abilities to discern between direct gaze and averted gaze, and infants' neurological stimulation during direct and averted gaze.

The first experiment utilized paired photographs—one face with direct gaze (exhibiting eye contact) and the other with averted gaze (eyes directed away). Seventeen healthy human newborn infants, all within the first five days of life, were used as the participants. The participating infant sat on the experimenter's lap in front of a screen with the contrasting photographs side by side and an LED light in the middle that flashed to attract the infant's attention. A video camera behind the screen recorded the infant's eye movements, specifically how many times and the amount of time each photograph was viewed. Overall, the newborns looked significantly longer toward the face displaying direct gaze than toward the face not maintaining eye contact. In addition, they viewed the averted gaze photograph less times than they did the direct photograph. This experiment proves that from birth, humans prefer mutual eye contact in contrast with averted gaze.

Experiment number two used...
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