Do voices and previous experiences mediate infant attention to faces?
From birth until about 4-5 months, infants show a preference for looking at their mother's face compared to a stranger's face (e.g., Bartrip et al., 2001; Pascalis et al., 1995). In these studies, infants are typically presented with photographs or static live faces. Given that prior experience with the mother's voice is necessary for the development of the mother-face preference shortly after birth (Sai, 2005), and that infants can match the faces and voices of their mother and father in live interactions by at least 4-months of age (Spelke & Owsley, 1979), the present study examined whether verbal cues might mediate infants' mother-face preference. 3.5-month-olds' attention to a photograph of the mother- and stranger-face was assessed using a visual habituation paradigm while infants heard an audio recording of their mother's or a stranger's voice. Infants spent an equal amount of time attending to both faces, regardless of whether the face and voice were matched (i.e. mother's face and voice) or mismatched (i.e. mother's face and stranger's voice). However, measures of maternal wellbeing signiﬁcantly predicted infant attention to the faces when a novel voice was playing. Thus, experiences outside of the experimental setting impact on infant attention to faces and voices.