Socially guided attention influences infants' communicative behavior

Jennifer L Miller, Julie Gros-Louis
Infant Behavior & Development 2013, 36 (4): 627-34
For effective prelinguistic communication, infants must be able to direct their attention, vocalizations, and nonverbal gestures in social interactions. The purpose of our study was to examine how different styles of caregiver responses influenced infant attentional and communicative behavior in social interactions, based on prior studies that have shown influences of responsiveness on attention, language and cognitive outcomes. Infants were exposed to redirective and sensitive behavior systematically using an ABA design to examine real-time changes in infants' behavior as a function of caregiver responses. During the two baseline "A" periods, caregivers were instructed to play as they would at home. During the social response "B" period, caregivers were instructed to respond sensitively to infants' behavior on one visit and redirectively on the other visit. Results demonstrated that when caregivers behaved redirectively, infants shifted their attention more frequently and decreased the duration of their visual attention. Caregiver responses also resulted in changes in vocal and gesture production. Infants decreased their production of caregiver-directed vocalizations, gestures, and gesture-vocal combinations during in the redirective condition. Results suggest that caregiver sensitive responding to infants' attentional focus may be one influence on infants' attentional and prelinguistic communicative behavior.

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