Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Experimental Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Cashon, Cara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Danovitch, Judith

Committee Member

Danovitch, Judith

Committee Member

Dove, Guy

Committee Member

Mervis, Carolyn

Committee Member

Rosen, Paul

Author's Keywords

infancy; face perception; emotion perception; fear bias; affective response


Understanding the origins of the negativity bias in infancy and how it develops is important for building a complete understanding of emotion perception. The goal of the present study was to 1) examine attentional biases for emotional expressions in infants between 7-9 months of age, specifically the bias for fearful and angry expressions, 2) examine how the onset of crawling is related to these biases and what that suggests about the mechanism underlying emotion preference in infants, and 3) examine how infant expression production differs when viewing different facial expressions. Infant attention biases to fearful, angry, happy, and neutral facial expressions were measured using a paired comparison paradigm. Infant crawling status was assessed by an in-lab crawling test as well as a parent report measure. Infant expression production was measured during singly presented face stimuli using a novel program that codes micro-expressions from video (Affectiva). Results of the study 1) demonstrated that there was an overall preference for the fearful expression regardless of expression pairing, and that this preference was specific only to fear, 2) demonstrated that the robust fear bias seen in 6-9-month-olds is unrelated to the changes in the emotional environment caused by crawling, and 3) provided tentative evidence to suggest that infants react differently to fearful and angry faces in terms of both visual attention and affective response. Implications and limitations of these findings are discussed, along with ideas for future directions.