The ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion is a critical part of human social interaction. Infants improve in this ability across the first year of life, but the mechanisms driving these changes and the origins of individual differences in this ability are largely unknown. This thesis used eye tracking to characterize infant scanning patterns of expressions. In study 1 (n = 40), I replicated the preference for fearful faces, and found that infants either allocated more attention to the eyes or the mouth across both happy and fearful expressions. In study 2 (n = 40), I found that infants differentially scanned the critical facial features of dynamic expressions. In study 3 (n = 38), I found that maternal depressive symptoms and positive and negative affect were related to individual differences in infants’ scanning of emotional expressions. Implications for our understanding of the development of emotion recognition are discussed.
Key Words: emotion recognition, infancy eye tracking, socioemotional development