COGNITIVE SCIENCE

Babies favor facelike stimuli before birth

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Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 264-265
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6348.264-f

Unborn babies notice facelike images.

PHOTO: NAJEEB LAYYOUS/SCIENCE SOURCE

Babies at birth show a preference for facelike stimuli—for instance, a triad of dots configured in a top-heavy manner like a face. Reid et al. show that this predisposition does not require any postnatal experience. Visual stimuli were projected through the mothers' abdomens to human fetuses in the third trimester of pregnancy. Using four-dimensional ultrasound technology, the authors saw that fetuses are more likely to turn their heads to look at a facelike configuration of three dots than an inverted dot configuration. It has often been assumed that no visual experience takes place before birth. A baby's perceptual bias toward faces may be innate or generated by prenatal visual experiences in the womb, rather than rapidly learned after birth.

Curr. Biol. 27, 1825 (2017).

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