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The eyes know it: Toddlers' visual scanning of sad faces is predicted by their theory of mind skills


The eyes know it: Toddlers' visual scanning of sad faces is predicted by their theory of mind skills

Poulin-Dubois, Diane, Hastings, Paul D., Chiarella, Sabrina Sarah, Geangu, Elena, Hauf, Petra, Ruel, Alexa and Johnson, Aaron P. (2018) The eyes know it: Toddlers' visual scanning of sad faces is predicted by their theory of mind skills. PLOS ONE, 13 (12). e0208524. ISSN 1932-6203

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208524


The current research explored toddlers’ gaze fixation during a scene showing a person expressing sadness after a ball is stolen from her. The relation between the duration of gaze fixation on different parts of the person’s sad face (e.g., eyes, mouth) and theory of mind skills was examined. Eye tracking data indicated that before the actor experienced the negative event, toddlers divided their fixation equally between the actor’s happy face and other distracting objects, but looked longer at the face after the ball was stolen and she expressed sadness. The strongest predictor of increased focus on the sad face versus other elements of the scene was toddlers’ ability to predict others’ emotional reactions when outcomes fulfilled (happiness) or failed to fulfill (sadness) desires, whereas toddlers’ visual perspective-taking skills predicted their more specific focusing on the actor’s eyes and, for boys only, mouth. Furthermore, gender differences emerged in toddlers’ fixation on parts of the scene. Taken together, these findings suggest that top-down processes are involved in the scanning of emotional facial expressions in toddlers.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Article
Authors:Poulin-Dubois, Diane and Hastings, Paul D. and Chiarella, Sabrina Sarah and Geangu, Elena and Hauf, Petra and Ruel, Alexa and Johnson, Aaron P.
Journal or Publication:PLOS ONE
  • Concordia Open Access Author Fund
  • Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, Award Number: 2008-SE-125058
  • Canadian Fund Innovation, Award Number: 203229
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Award Number: 322013
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Award Number: 435-202-1403
  • Canada Excellence Research Chairs, Government of Canada
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1371/journal.pone.0208524
ID Code:984769
Deposited By: Krista Alexander
Deposited On:17 Dec 2018 19:10
Last Modified:17 Dec 2018 19:10


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