From birth, human and nonhuman primates attend more to faces with direct gaze compared with averted gaze, and previous studies report that attention to the eyes is linked to the emergence of later social skills. Here, we explored whether early experiences influence attraction to eye contact in infant macaques by examining their attention to face pairs varying in their gaze direction across the first 13 weeks of life. Infants raised by human caretakers had limited conspecific interactions (nursery-reared; N = 16) and were compared to infants raised in rich social environments (mother-reared; N = 20). Both groups looked longer to faces and the eyes of direct compared to averted-gaze faces. Looking to all faces and eyes also increased with age. Nursery-reared infants did not display age-associated increases in attention to direct-gaze faces specifically, suggesting that, while there may be an initial preference for direct-gaze faces from birth, social experiences may support its early development.
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