Empirical research has investigated an infants’ capability of using an adult’s eye gaze to direct their own eye gaze onto an external stimulus (Reid & Striano, 2005). Hoehl, Reid, Mooney, and Striano (2008) wanted to further expand on this research and investigate this at a neural level. It is necessary that conclusions drawn from this particular study are applicable to all infants. Therefore, it is important that this research is reliable and valid and that any limitations of this research can be improved upon to help expand the field further.
Research in this field found preferential differences in an adult when their eye gaze is directed towards an object, as opposed to faces with eye gaze averted from an object, in neonates (Farroni, Csibra, Simion, & Johnson, 2002). Reid and Striano (2005) examined 4-month-old infants looking at adult faces with their eye gaze directed towards an object and averted away from an object. It was found that infants looked substantially shorter at the object that was cued by the eye gaze. They concluded that the cued object was familiar compared with the uncued object which was seen as novel and therefore attracted more attention. Reid, Striano, Kaufman, and Johnson (2004) expanded upon previous research and investigated neural activity using event related potentials to measure an infants’ reaction to direct and averted eye gaze. A positive slow wave measure was adopted and it was found that the amplitude was larger for the averted eye gaze condition compared against the direct eye gaze condition. This increase indicated that the averted eye gaze was seen as novel compared to the direct eye gaze, substantiating what had been found in previous research.
Hoehl, Reid, Mooney, and Striano (2008) replicated the Reid, Striano, Kaufman, and Johnson (2004) study with the addition of the measurement of the negative component. This particular experiment sought to determine how an infant differentially processes the eye gaze of an adult compared with an external object as well as investigating how the infant uses the direction of eye gaze to guide their attention. This study did not specifically investigate the infants’ ability to follow an adults’ eye gaze, unlike previous research, but focused specifically on the directedness of an adults’ eye gaze with an object present in the peripheral view of the infant.
The present study required 4 month-old infants to look at pictures of an adults face with their eye gaze either directed towards or averted away from an object that was located in the peripheral view of the infant. Event related potentials (ERP) were recorded in the form of positive slow waves and a negative component to determine attentional and encoding differences. A repeated-measures design was adopted for this experiment as all infants were exposed to both of the conditions (averted eye gaze and direct eye gaze) and they also received both ERP recordings (positive slow wave and negative component) in the...