Simulating newborn face perception

A frequently asked question concerns what a newborn infant can actually see.


The contrast sensitivity function of newborn infants is well known, but its implications for the ability of newborns to perceive faces of adults remain unclear. We filtered gray scale animations of facial expressions in terms of both spatial frequency and contrast to correspond to the properties of newborn infants' acuity and showed them to adult participants. We reasoned that if adults were unable to identify the depicted facial expressions, then it would also seem unlikely that newborn infants could identify the same expressions. We found that for the simulated acuity the different expressions could be rather well identified at a distance of 30 cm, but when the distance was increased to 120 cm their discriminability was much degraded. This shows that although the perception of faces and facial expressions can function at the low visual resolution of the newborn infant, it is insufficient for distinguishing faces and facial expressions at moderate distances.

Journal of Vision, (2014) 14(13):16, 1–9

Published Dec. 4, 2014 7:30 AM - Last modified Sep. 3, 2015 1:54 PM