skip to main content


Title: The Role of Dyadic Coordination in Organizing Visual Attention in 5‐Month‐Old Infants

In human infants, the ability to share attention with others is facilitated by increases in attentional selectivity and focus. Differences in early attention have been associated with socio‐cognitive outcomes including language, yet the social mechanisms of attention organization in early infancy have only recently been considered. Here, we examined how social coordination between 5‐month‐old infants and caregivers relate to differences in infant attention, including looking preferences, span, and reactivity to caregivers’ social cues. Using a naturalistic play paradigm, we found that 5‐month‐olds who received a high ratio ofsensitive(jointly focused) contingent responses showed strong preferences for objects with which their caregivers were manually engaged. In contrast, infants whose caregivers exhibited high ratios ofredirection(attempts to shift focus) showed no preferences for caregivers’ held objects. Such differences have implications for recent models of cognitive development, which rely on early looking preferences for adults’ manually engaged objects as a pathway toward joint attention and word learning. Further, sensitivity and redirectiveness predicted infant attention even in reaction to caregiver responses that werenon‐referential(neither sensitive nor redirective). In response to non‐referentials, infants of highly sensitive caregivers oriented less frequently than infants of highly redirective caregivers, who showed increased distractibility. Our results suggest that specific dyadic exchanges predict infant attention differences toward broader social cues, which may have consequences for social‐cognitive outcomes.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10065000
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Infancy
Volume:
24
Issue:
2
ISSN:
1525-0008
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 162-186
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    To understand how infants become engaged in conversations with their caregivers, we examinedwhotends to initiate conversations between adults and infants, differences between the features of infant‐ and adult‐initiated conversations, and whether individual differences in how much infants engage in infant‐ or adult‐initiated conversations uniquely predict later language development. We analyzed naturalistic adult–infant conversations captured via passive recording of the daily environment in two samples of 6‐month‐old infants. In Study 1, we found that at age 6 months, infants typically engage in more adult‐ than infant‐initiated conversations and that adult‐initiated conversations are, on average, longer and contain more adult words. In Study 2, we replicated these findings and, further, found that infants who engaged in moreadult‐initiated conversations in infancy had better expressive language at age 18 months. This association remained significant when accounting for the number ofinfant‐initiated conversations at 6 months. Our findings indicate that early interactions with caregivers can have a lasting impact on children's language development, and that the extent to which parents initiate interactions with their infants may be particularly important.

     
    more » « less
  2.  
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background How the brain develops accurate models of the external world and generates appropriate behavioral responses is a vital question of widespread multidisciplinary interest. It is increasingly understood that brain signal variability—posited to enhance perception, facilitate flexible cognitive representations, and improve behavioral outcomes—plays an important role in neural and cognitive development. The ability to perceive, interpret, and respond to complex and dynamic social information is particularly critical for the development of adaptive learning and behavior. Social perception relies on oxytocin-regulated neural networks that emerge early in development. Methods We tested the hypothesis that individual differences in the endogenous oxytocinergic system early in life may influence social behavioral outcomes by regulating variability in brain signaling during social perception. In study 1, 55 infants provided a saliva sample at 5 months of age for analysis of individual differences in the oxytocinergic system and underwent electroencephalography (EEG) while listening to human vocalizations at 8 months of age for the assessment of brain signal variability. Infant behavior was assessed via parental report. In study 2, 60 infants provided a saliva sample and underwent EEG while viewing faces and objects and listening to human speech and water sounds at 4 months of age. Infant behavior was assessed via parental report and eye tracking. Results We show in two independent infant samples that increased brain signal entropy during social perception is in part explained by an epigenetic modification to the oxytocin receptor gene ( OXTR ) and accounts for significant individual differences in social behavior in the first year of life. These results are measure-, context-, and modality-specific: entropy, not standard deviation, links OXTR methylation and infant behavior; entropy evoked during social perception specifically explains social behavior only; and only entropy evoked during social auditory perception predicts infant vocalization behavior. Conclusions Demonstrating these associations in infancy is critical for elucidating the neurobiological mechanisms accounting for individual differences in cognition and behavior relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders. Our results suggest that an epigenetic modification to the oxytocin receptor gene and brain signal entropy are useful indicators of social development and may hold potential diagnostic, therapeutic, and prognostic value. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Turn‐taking interactions are foundational to the development of social, communicative, and cognitive skills. In infants, vocal turn‐taking experience is predictive of infants' socioemotional and language development. However, different forms of turn‐taking interactions may have different effects on infant vocalizing. It is presently unknown how caregiver vocal, non‐vocal and multimodal responses to infant vocalizations compare in extending caregiver‐infant vocal turn‐taking bouts. In bouts that begin with an infant vocalization, responses that maintain versus change the communicative modality may differentially affect the likelihood of further infant vocalizing. No studies have examined how caregiver response modalities that either matched or differed from the infant acoustic (vocal) modality might affect the temporal structure of vocal turn‐taking beyond the initial serve‐and‐return exchanges. We video‐recorded free‐play sessions of 51 caregivers with their 9‐month‐old infants. Caregivers responded to babbling most often with vocalizations. In turn, caregiver vocal responses were significantly more likely to elicit subsequent infant babbling. Bouts following an initial caregiver vocal response contained significantly more turns than those following a non‐vocal or multimodal response. Thus prelinguistic turn‐taking is sensitive to the modality of caregivers' responses. Future research should investigate if such sensitivity is grounded in attentional constraints, which may influence the structure of turn‐taking interactions.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The early development of threat perception in infancy might be dependent on caregiver context, but this link has not yet been studied in human infants. This study examined the emergence of the young infant's response to threat in the context of variations in caregiving behavior. Eighty infant‐caregiver dyads (39 female infants, all of western European descent) visited the laboratory when the infant was 5 months old. Each dyad completed a free‐play task, from which we coded for the mother's level of engagement: the amount of talking, close proximity, positive affect, and attention directed toward the infant. When the infant was 7 months old, they came back to the laboratory and we used functional near infrared spectroscopy and eye tracking to measure infants’ neural and attentional responses to threatening angry faces. In response to threat, infants of more‐engaged mothers showed increased brain responses in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—a brain region associated with emotion regulation and cognitive control among adults—and reduced attentional avoidance. These results point to a role for caregiver behavioral context in the early development of brain systems involved in human threat responding.

     
    more » « less