Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor's Name

Lorraine E. Bahrick

First Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Mary Levitt

Third Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

Fourth Advisor's Name

Martha Pelaez

Keywords

Social Referencing, Infant Perception, Emotion Perception, Intersensory Perception

Date of Defense

11-7-2011

Abstract

The current study assessed the importance of infant detection of contingency and head and eye gaze direction in the emergence of social referencing. Five- to six-month-old infants’ detection of affect-object relations and subsequent manual preferences for objects paired with positive expressions were assessed. In particular, the role of contingency between toys’ movements and an actress’s emotional expressions as well as the role of gaze direction toward the toys’ location were examined. Infants were habituated to alternating films of two toys each paired with an actress’s affective expression (happy and fearful) under contingent or noncontingent and gaze congruent or gaze incongruent conditions. Results indicated that gaze congruence and contingency between toys’ movements and a person’s affective expressions were important for infant perception of affect-object relations. Furthermore, infant perception of the relation between affective expressions and toys translated to their manual preferences for the 3-dimensional toys. Infants who received contingent affective responses to the movements of the toys spent more time touching the toy that was previously paired with the positive expression. These findings demonstrate the role of contingency and gaze direction in the emergence of social referencing in the first half year of life.

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