The development of visual preferences for direct versus averted gaze faces in infant macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Jana Muschinski, Eric Feczko, Jenna M. Brooks, Marie Collantes, Thomas R. Heitz, Lisa A. Parr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Human and nonhuman primates show a preference for looking at faces with direct gaze. In humans, this preference emerges shortly after birth, but little is known about the development of gaze preferences in monkeys. This study tracked the development of gaze preferences in infant monkeys from birth through 6 months of age using infrared eye-tracking. Although absent in the first week, a strong significant preference for direct compared to averted gaze faces emerged rapidly, peaking around 2 months of age. When looking at the eyes, the monkeys’ fixations were equivalent in duration for both gaze types in the first 2 months, but thereafter remained longer for the averted gaze faces. Therefore, the infants spent a greater proportion of time overall, but made shorter fixations, when looking at the direct compared to averted gaze faces. These results suggest that monkeys develop an efficient strategy when viewing the preferred direct gaze faces that involves longer viewing times, but shorter fixations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)926-936
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by R01MH068791, R01MH104534, and K02MH096084 to L. A. Parr, and an Autism Center of Excellence grant to the Marcus Autism Center, Children's HealthCare of Atlanta (P50MH000029). Additional support was provided by the National Center for Research Resources P51RR000165 to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, currently the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs/OD P51OD011132. Special thanks to Lauren Murphy for assistance with animal testing, and David Bailey, Erika Burgess, Riana Kahlon for assistance with data processing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • eye
  • face
  • gaze
  • infant development
  • macaque
  • vision


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