Chapel Hill, N.C. — Researchers are seeking a more scientific evaluation of how people look at faces with a cleft lip and palate through the use of an eye-tracking camera, Medical News Today reports.
In its March issue, the Cleft Palate Craniofacial Journal, based here, reported on a study that analyzed eye movements while participants looked at pictures of faces with and without a unilateral cleft lip and palate. Participants included a group of 33 people affected by cleft lip and palate and a control group of 30 people unaffected. The results show that participants who themselves have a cleft lip and palate focused on that feature longer than those in the control group.
The authors explained that when viewers look at someone’s face, their eyes usually fixate on main features and then take a path from one to the next in a fixed order known as the scanpath. It has been documented that viewers fixate initially and for a longer time on features that draw on their emotions.
In this study, participants with and without cleft lip and palate showed a quantifiably different scanpath from each other when looking at pictures. Participants with cleft lip and palate fixated on the nose significantly more often and the eyes significantly less often than those in the control group. Both groups looked at pictures of faces with cleft lip and palate longer than they did unaffected faces.
More than half of all adults with cleft lip and palate report dissatisfaction with their facial appearance. Even when surgery to repair the cleft has been performed in infancy with appropriate follow-up therapy, a scar and a distinct asymmetry of the nose remain. Those with a cleft lip and palate would have a stronger emotional connection with these facial features that could explain their different way of viewing a face.