The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Hands and the origins of socially shared attention in human infants


Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University

April 15, 2016 9:00, Imperial Ballroom B Add to calendar

The coordination of visual attention among social partners is central to many components of human behavior and human development. Previous research has focused on one pathway to the coordination of looking behavior by social partners, gaze following. The extant evidence shows that even very young infants follow the direction of another's gaze but they do so only in highly constrained spatial contexts because gaze direction is not a spatially precise cue as to the visual target and not easily used in spatially complex social interactions. Our findings, derived from the moment-to-moment tracking of eye gaze of infants 1 to 1 ½ years of age (n=51) and their parents as they actively played with toys, provide evidence for an alternative pathway, through the coordination of hands and eyes in goal-directed action. This pathway, through eye-hand coupling, leads to coordinated joint switches in visual attention and to an overall high rate of looking at the same object at the same time, and may be the dominant pathway through which physically active toddlers align their looking behavior with a social partner. The discussion will center on the developmental links between visual attention to hands, socially coordinated visual attention to objects, joint action on objects, and early word learning.

This work was funded by NICHD R01 HD074601