THE NEURAL BASIS OF FACE PROCESSING IN INFANCY AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMPATHY

Written by Helen O’REILLY, Michelle de HAAN on . Posted in Special issue: Empathy Development, Guest Editor: Elena GEANGU, Volume XIII, Nr. 4

ABSTRACT

Faces are a salient part of the visual social environment, providing important signals including emotional expression and direction of eye gaze that inform us about other people’s feelings and intentions. In this paper, we review the development and neural bases of infants’ perception of emotion and eye gaze from faces. Building from the idea that the same or similar brain network responds when we see another person experiencing an emotion as when we actually experience it ourselves, we go on to speculate how the neural system underlying infants’ abilities to perceive social information in the face might provide the brain bases for emerging empathy abilities. We conclude by providing suggestions as to how developmental cognitive neuroscientists can bridge the gap between how infants’ perceptions are used to give rise to the semantic meaning of emotions and also the understanding of how the emotions displayed reflect the feelings of others.

KEYWORDS: faces, emotion, eye-gaze, event-related potentials, infancy.

PAGES: 429-448