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Differential Processing of Gaze Cueing from a Congruent and Incongruent Informant

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Posterpeer-review

Publication date7/07/2020
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventInternational Conference of Infant Studies 2020 - online
Duration: 6/07/20209/07/2020


ConferenceInternational Conference of Infant Studies 2020
Abbreviated titlevICIS2020
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Infants are known to be sensitive to, and be capable of, processing social information from birth. However, less is known about abilities related to actively choosing the information source on which to rely, over passively processing all available information. A recent study showed that 8-month-olds’ gaze following behaviour was influenced by the reliability of the informant (Tummeltshammer et al., 2014), suggesting that infants as young as 8 months of age might recognize whether the person in front of them is trustworthy. To better understand this discriminative ability of infants, the current study utilizes event-related potentials (ERPs), to investigate whether infants’ neural activity indicates the differentiation of a congruent informant (who always gives the correct gaze cue to the object location) from an incongruent informant (who only gives the correct gaze cue on 25% of trials). 9-month-old infants (N = 21) were presented with 32 static images in total which showed two female experimenters (16 images for each), one of whom looked at the object appearing on one of the corners 100% of the time (i.e. congruent informant) and the other only looked at the object 25 % of the time and looked away from the object 75% of the time (i.e. incongruent informant). A paired-sample t-test comparing between the congruent and incongruent informants showed that the amplitude of the negative deflection occurring at approximately 275ms post-stimuli over fronto-central regions was enhanced while infants were processing information given by a congruent informant (M= -15.05[µV], SD= 4.56), compared to when the information was given by an incongruent informant (M= -12.35[µV], SD= 3.79) (t= -2.49, p= .002). Previous studies have shown that a negative amplitude component occurring at around 400ms post-stimuli in 9-month infants (the negative component, or the Nc), has been associated with infants’ attentional allocation (e.g. Striano et al., 2006; Parise et al., 2008). While the negative peak observed in the present study is at an earlier latency than the Nc, this indicates a difference in neural processing of congruent and incongruent informants in 9-month-old infants. Furthermore, an enhanced positive slow wave (PSW) over fronto-temporal regions was observed for an incongruent informant (M= 9.27[µV], SD= 5.32) compared to a congruent informant (M= 6.12[µV], SD= 5.63) (t= -2.309, p=.003). As the PSW has been thought to reflect memory updating (Snyder, Webb & Nelson, 2002; Reid et al. 2004), this might reflect how infants alter their perception about the congruency of gaze cues during the short exposure to the information (16 per condition). In sum, the result demonstrates how quickly young infants can recognize the congruency of other people’s gaze cues. This study extends our understanding forward on how infants collect and process social information, as the current study offers evidence that infants as young as 9 months of age selectively process sources of information differentially in the social domain, which might enable them to learn efficiently at a social situation despite ample and complex information present.