Prior sleep timing and visual recognition of emotional faces in 6-month-old infants

Publication Name

Infant Behavior and Development


Face recognition is an important mnemonic ability for infants when navigating the social world. While age-related changes in face processing abilities are relatively well documented, less is known about short-term intra-individual fluctuations in this ability. Given that sleep deprivation in adults leads to impairments in information processing, we assessed the role of prior sleep on 6-month-old infants’ (N = 17) visual recognition of faces showing three emotional expressions (neutral, sad, angry). Visual recognition was inferred by assessing novelty preferences for unfamiliar relative to familiarized faces in a visual recognition memory paradigm. In a within-subject design, infants participated once after they had recently woken up from a nap (nap condition) and once after they had been awake for an extended period of time (awake condition). Infants failed to show visual recognition for the neutral faces in either condition. Infants showed recognition for the sad and angry faces when tested in the awake condition, but not in the nap condition. This suggests that timing of prior sleep shapes how effectively infants process emotionally relevant information in their environment.

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Funding Sponsor

Royal Society Te Apārangi



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