Shifting Preferences for Primate Faces in Neurotypical Infants and Infants Later Diagnosed With ASD

Amy Yamashiro, Andrea Sorcinelli, Tazmin Rahman, Rebecca Elbogen, Suzanne Curtin, Athena Vouloumanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infants look at others' faces to gather social information. Newborns look equally at human and monkey faces but prefer human faces by 1 month, helping them learn to communicate and interact with others. Infants later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) look at human faces less than neurotypical infants, which may underlie some deficits in social-communication later in life. Here, we asked whether infants later diagnosed with ASD differ in their preferences for both human and nonhuman primate faces compared to neurotypical infants over their first 2 years of life. We compare infants' relative looking times to human or monkey faces paired with nonface controls (Experiment 1) and infants' total looking times to pairs of human and monkey faces (Experiment 2). Across two experiments, we find that between 6 and 18 months, infants later diagnosed with ASD show a greater downturn (decrease after an initial increase) in looking at both primate faces than neurotypical infants. A decrease in attention to primate faces may partly underlie the social-communicative difficulties in children with ASD and could reveal how early perceptual experiences with faces affect development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-262
Number of pages14
JournalAutism Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Face preference
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • eye tracking
  • human faces
  • infancy
  • monkey faces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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