Effects of attentional behaviours on infant visual preferences and object choice

  • Mitsuhiko IshikawaEmail author
  • Mina Yoshimura
  • Hiroki Sato
  • Shoji Itakura
Research Article


Many developmental studies have examined the effects of joint attention. However, it has been difficult to compare effects of initiating joint attention and responding to joint attention in infants. Here, we compared the effects of initiating joint attention and responding joint attention on object information processing, object preference, and facial preferences in infants. Thirty-seven infants (10 to 12 months of age) were shown stimuli in which a female gazed towards or away from an object. Participants were assigned to initiating joint attention condition or responding joint attention condition. Results suggest that initiating joint attention promoted object information processing, whereas responding joint attention did not. Both joint attention conditions affected the facial preference for the person who engaged joint attention. In addition, after initiating joint attention, infants chose objects gazed by other person more often than after responding joint attention. It appears that attentional behaviours that precede the perception of certain stimuli affect infants’ cognitive responses to those stimuli.


Eye gaze Visual preferences Object choice Initiating joint attention Responding joint attention 



We appreciate the cooperation of all families that agreed to participate in this study. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers and colleagues who have given us useful feedback.

Author contributions

M.I. developed the study concept and conducted experiments and data analysis. All authors approved the experiment design and discussed about the results. S.I. supervised this study.


Young Fellowship grants to M.I from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Grants to S.I from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (#25245067 and #16H06301) supported the research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical standard

Our experimental protocol was approved by the Research Ethics Review Board of the Department of Psychology, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan (protocol no. 28-P-12). The study was carried out in accordance with the provisions of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki.

Informed consent

All participants gave their written informed consent to participate. All stimuli were originally created for this study, and persons represented in the figure were given informed consent and permitted to publish the images in all formats.

Supplementary material

10339_2019_918_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 13 kb)


  1. Baldwin DA (1995) Understanding the link between joint attention and language. In: Moore C, Dunham PJ (eds) Joint attention: its origins and role in development. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., Hillsdale, NJ, pp 131–158Google Scholar
  2. Bayliss AP, Murphy E, Naughtin CK, Kritikos A, Schilbach L, Becker SI (2013) “Gaze leading”: initiating simulated joint attention influences eye movements and choice behaviour. J Exp Psychol Gen 142(1):76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brooks R, Meltzoff AN (2005) The development of gaze following and its relation to language. Dev Sci 8(6):535–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carpenter M, Nagell K, Tomasello M, Butterworth G, Moore C (1998) Social cognition, joint attention, and communicative competence from 9 to 15 months of age. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 1–174Google Scholar
  5. Csibra G, Gergely G (2006) Social learning and social cognition: the case for pedagogy. In: Johnson MH, Munakata YM (eds) Processes of change in brain and cognitive development. Attention and performance, vol XXI. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 249–274Google Scholar
  6. Csibra G, Gergely G (2009) Natural pedagogy. Trends Cognit Sci 13(4):148–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Edwards SG, Stephenson LJ, Dalmaso M, Bayliss AP (2015) Social orienting in gaze leading: a mechanism for shared attention. Proc R Soc B 282:1–8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gredebäck G, Theuring C, Hauf P, Kenward B (2008) The microstructure of infants’ gaze as they view adult shifts in overt attention. Infancy 13(5):533–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grossmann T, Lloyd-Fox S, Johnson MH (2013) Brain responses reveal young infants’ sensitivity to when a social partner follows their gaze. Dev Cogn Neurosci 6:155–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Grynszpan O, Martin JC, Fossati P (2017) Gaze leading is associated with liking. Acta Physiol (Oxf) 173:66–72Google Scholar
  11. Hoehl S, Reid V, Mooney J, Striano T (2008) What are you looking at? Infants’ neural processing of an adult’s object-directed eye gaze. Dev Sci 11(1):10–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hoehl S, Wahl S, Michel C, Striano T (2012) Effects of eye gaze cues provided by the caregiver compared to a stranger on infants’ object processing. Dev Cognit Neurosci 2(1):81–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ishikawa M, Itakura S (2018) Observing others’ gaze direction affects infants’ preference for looking at gazing-or gazed-at faces. Front Psychol 9:1503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ishikawa M, Itakura S (2019) Physiological arousal predicts gaze following in infants. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 286:20182746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kim K, Mundy P (2012) Joint attention, social-cognition, and recognition memory in adults. Front Hum Neurosci 6:172Google Scholar
  16. Leekam SR, Hunnisett E, Moore C (1998) Targets and cues: gaze-following in children with autism. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39(7):951–962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Marno H, Davelaar EJ, Csibra G (2014) Nonverbal communicative signals modulate attention to object properties. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 40(2):752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moore C, Corkum V (1998) Infant gaze following based on eye direction. Br J Dev Psychol 16(4):495–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mundy P (2003) Annotation: the neural basis of social impairments in autism: the role of the dorsal medial-frontal cortex and anterior cingulate system. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 44(6):793–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mundy P (2018) A review of joint attention and social-cognitive brain systems in typical development and autism spectrum disorder. Eur J Neurosci 47(6):497–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mundy P, Acra F (2006) Joint attention, social engagement and the development of social competence. In: Marshall P, Fox N (eds) The development of social engagement neurobiological perspectives. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 81–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mundy P, Gomes A (1998) Individual differences in joint attention skill development in the second year. Infant Behav Dev 21(3):469–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mundy P, Jarrold W (2010) Infant joint attention, neural networks and social cognition. Neural Netw 23(8):985–997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mundy P, Newell L (2007) Attention, joint attention, and social cognition. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 16(5):269–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mundy P, Kim K, McIntyre N, Lerro L, Jarrold W (2016) Brief report: joint attention and information processing in children with higher functioning autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 46(7):2555–2560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Okumura Y, Kanakogi Y, Kanda T, Ishiguro H, Itakura S (2013) The power of human gaze on infant learning. Cognition 128(2):127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Posner MI (1980) Orienting of attention. Q J Exp Psychol 32(1):3–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reid VM, Striano T (2005) Adult gaze influences infant attention and object processing: implications for cognitive neuroscience. Eur J Neurosci 21(6):1763–1766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schilbach M, Wilms SB, Eickhoff S, Romanzetti R, Tepest G Bente, Vogeley K (2010) Minds made for sharing: initiating joint attention recruits reward-related neurocircuitry. J Cognit Neurosci 22(12):2702–2715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Senju A, Johnson MH (2009) Atypical eye contact in autism: models, mechanisms and development. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 33(8):1204–1214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Striano T, Reid VM, Hoehl S (2006) Neural mechanisms of joint attention in infancy. Eur J Neurosci 23(10):2819–2823CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tomasello M (1988) The role of joint attentional processes in early language development. Lang Sci 10(1):69–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Valenza E, Simion F, Cassia VM, Umiltà C (1996) Face preference at birth. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 22(4):892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Woodward AL (2003) Infants’ developing understanding of the link between looker and object. Dev Sci 6(3):297–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Graduate School of LettersKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Hitachi High-Technologies CorporationTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Department of Bioscience and EngineeringShibaura Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations