Sex-Specific Scanning in Infancy: Developmental Changes in the Use of Face/Head and Body Information

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The current investigation sought to differentiate between contrasting perspectives of body knowledge development by determining whether infants’ adult-like scanning of male and female bodies is dependent on relevant information from the face/head alone, the body alone, or a combination of both sources. Scanning patterns of 3.5-, 6.5-, and 9-month-olds (N = 80) in response to images that contained information relevant to sex classification in either the face/head or the body were examined. The results indicate that sex-specific scanning in the presence of only one source of relevant information (i.e., face/head or body) is present only at 9 months. Thus, although sex-specific scanning of bodies emerges as early as 3.5 months, information from both faces/heads and bodies is required until sometime between 6.5 and 9 months of age. These findings constrain theories of the development of social perception by documenting the complex interplay between body and face/head processing early in life