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Recognition of faces at birth

A series of studies on newborns’ abilities for recognizing speaking faces has been performed in order to identify the fundamental cues of social cognition. We used audiovisual faces rather than photographs or patterns of faces. Direct eye gaze and speech addressed to newborns, in interactive situations, appear to be two good candidates for this function. Both enable a correct identification and recognition of an unfamiliar person by the infants. Moreover, newborns are capable of imitation of model (mouth opening or lip spreading) more quickly if it is associated with the pronunciation of a vowel /a/ or /i/. Newborns are very sensitive to natural speech compared to filtered speech. These findings reveal the existence of an innate predisposition to social interactions in newborns.

Project team lead
Arlette Streri