Effects of Motion on Infants' Negativity Bias in Emotion Perception

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Virginia Tech

The negativity bias is a phenomenon that is characterized by infants being more influenced by, attending more to, and responding to more negative emotion information from the environment than positive emotion information. This study used a Tobii© T60 eye-tracking system to examine differences in 8- to 12-month-old infants' latencies to disengage from a centrally-presented face for three different emotion conditions-happy, sad, and fear. The events also varied by motion type-static versus dynamic. Additionally, infants' locomotor experience and parental affect served as two additional measures of experience, and assessed for their contributions to the infants' negativity bias. It was expected that infants would show longer latencies to disengage from the negative emotion events (fear or sad) compared to the positive emotion event (happy), but also that the latencies would be augmented by event type (dynamic > static), locomotion experience (high > low), and parental affect (higher negativity > lower negativity). Although infants showed more attention to dynamic than static emotion displays (especially on the speaker's mouth), and more attention to happy and sad compared to fear displays, no consistent effect of emotion type was found on infants' attention disengagement. Thus, no evidence for a negativity bias was seen. The results are interpreted with respect to possible contributions of the bimodal nature of emotion expression in the current study as well as age-related attentional differences in responding to a wide range of emotion cues.

negativity bias, infancy, emotion perception, eye-