|Infants infer potential social partners by observing the interactions of their parent with unknown others
|Year of Publication
|Thomas, AJ, Saxe, R, Spelke, ES
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Despite decades of research on the development of social knowledge, few experiments have tested how infants learn about new individuals from the behavior of their caregivers. Here, we show that infants learn who is a potential social partner by observing their parents’ interactions with previously unknown individuals.
Infants are born into networks of individuals who are socially connected. How do infants begin learning which individuals are their own potential social partners? Using digitally edited videos, we showed 12-mo-old infants’ social interactions between unknown individuals and their own parents. In studies 1 to 4, after their parent showed affiliation toward one puppet, infants expected that puppet to engage with them. In study 5, infants made the reverse inference; after a puppet engaged with them, the infants expected that puppet to respond to their parent. In each study, infants’ inferences were specific to social interactions that involved their own parent as opposed to another infant’s parent. Thus, infants combine observation of social interactions with knowledge of their preexisting relationship with their parent to discover which newly encountered individuals are potential social partners for themselves and their families.
|Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
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