Pollux, P. M. J., Hall, S., & Guo, K. (2014). Facial expression training optimises viewing strategy in children and adults. PLoS ONE, 9(8), e105418.

This study investigated whether training-related improvements in facial expression categorization are facilitated by spontaneous changes in gaze behaviour in adults and nine-year old children. Four sessions of a self-paced, free-viewing training task required participants to categorize happy, sad and fear expressions with varying intensities. No instructions about eye movements were given. Eye-movements were recorded in the first and fourth training session. New faces were introduced in session four to establish transfer-effects of learning. Adults focused most on the eyes in all sessions and increased expression categorization accuracy after training coincided with a strengthening of this eye-bias in gaze allocation. In children, training-related behavioural improvements coincided with an overall shift in gaze-focus towards the eyes (resulting in more adult-like gaze-distributions) and towards the mouth for happy faces in the second fixation. Gaze-distributions were not influenced by the expression intensity or by the introduction of new faces. It was proposed that training enhanced the use of a uniform, predominantly eyes-biased, gaze strategy in children in order to optimise extraction of relevant cues for discrimination between subtle facial expressions.

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