It’s been a busy week for the B.A.B.Y. lab! Our paper yesterday in Current Biology demonstrated how social feedback guides song learning in birds. Our new paper, led by Gina Mason, is out today in Infancy. We show how social interactions organize attention in five-month-old human infants.
Using a naturalistic play paradigm, we found that 5-month-olds who received a high ratio of sensitive (jointly focused) contingent responses showed strong preferences for objects with which their caregivers were manually engaged. In contrast, infants whose caregivers exhibited high ratios of redirection (attempts to shift focus) showed no preferences for caregivers’ held objects. Further, sensitivity and redirectiveness predicted infant attention even in reaction to caregiver responses that were non-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.