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Social causality in motion: Visual bias and categorization of social interactions during the observation of chasing in infancy
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. Uppsala Child & Babylab. (Department of Psychology)
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic) [Artistic work]
Abstract [en]

Since the seminal work of Fritz Heider and Marienne Simmel (1944) the study of animacy perception, or the perception and attribution of life from the motion of simple geometrical shapes has intrigued researchers. The intrigue for psychologists and vision scientists then and today centered on the stark disconnect between the simplicity of the visual input and the universal richness of the resulting percept.

Infant research in this domain has become critical in examining the ontological processes behind the formation of animated percepts. To date, little is known about how infants process these kinds of stimuli. While numerous habituation studies have shown sensitivity to animate motion in general, none to date has examined whether infants actually perceive animate displays as social interactions.

The overarching goal of the present thesis is to answer this question and further augment knowledge about the mechanisms behind the formation of animated percepts in infancy. I, along with my collaborators, do so in three ways, in three separate studies. First, we examined visual attention during online observation of randomly moving geometrical shapes in adults and infants (Study I, using eye tracking). Second, we examine distribution of visual attention in infancy during online observation of non-contact causal interactions, focusing on the most ubiquitous, fitness relevant of interactions – chasing (Study II, using eye tracking). Third, we answer the question whether infants perceive social content in chasing displays by measuring the neural correlates in response to chasing (Study III, using EEG).

The collective contribution of the present work is also three fold. First, it demonstrates that starting at the end of the first year of life, human visual system is sensitive to cues that efficiently predict an interaction. Second, at 5-months infants begins allocating attention differently across agents within interactions. Finally, attention to specific objects is not due to low-level saliency but the social nature of the interaction. Subsequently, I present the case that perception of social agents is fast, direct, and reflects the workings of a specialized learning mechanisms whose function is the detection of heat-seeking animates in motion. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2017. , 101 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 144
Keyword [en]
social causality, motion, animacy perception, chasing goal-directed motion, heat-seeking, EEG; P400, Nc, spatial proximity, non-contact causality, functional specialization, specialized perception, evolution
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-321904ISBN: 978-91-554-9943-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-321904DiVA: diva2:1095130
Public defence
2017-08-31, Auditorium Minus, Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-06-07 Created: 2017-05-12 Last updated: 2017-09-20
List of papers
1. Visual Attention to Dynamic Spatial Relations in Infants and Adults
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Visual Attention to Dynamic Spatial Relations in Infants and Adults
2016 (English)In: Infancy, ISSN 1525-0008, E-ISSN 1532-7078, Vol. 21, no 1, 90-103 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous research has found that kinematic features of interactions, such as spatial proximity, capture adult visual attention. The current research uses online measures of gaze behavior to determine attentional capture to objects with reduced interobject spacing in adults as well as infants at 5 and 12months. The three age groups observed three identical geometrical shapes that moved randomly. Relative distance between the objects was mapped and intervals of high and low spatial proximity were identified. Findings demonstrate that only adults and 12-month-olds look significantly more at the objects that are close during instances of high spatial proximity, while 5-month-olds look at chance. The findings speak for a developmental trend in oculomotor processes, where a bias to look at objects with high spatial proximity develops within the first year of life.

National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-268915 (URN)10.1111/infa.12091 (DOI)000368719000005 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, VR-2011-1528
Available from: 2015-12-11 Created: 2015-12-11 Last updated: 2017-05-12Bibliographically approved
2. Infants' preference for individual agents within chasing interactions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants' preference for individual agents within chasing interactions
2016 (English)In: Journal of experimental child psychology (Print), ISSN 0022-0965, E-ISSN 1096-0457, Vol. 147, 53-70 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Infants, like adults, are able to discriminate between chasing and non-chasing interactions when watching animations with simple geometric shapes. But where infants derive the necessary information for discrimination and how chasing detection influences later visual attention has been previously unexplored. Here, using eye tracking, we investigated how 5- and 12-month-old infants (N = 94) distribute their visual attention among individual members within different interactions depending on a type of interaction. Infant gaze was examined when observing animations depicting chasing and following interactions compared with animations displaying randomly moving shapes. Results demonstrate that when observing chasing and following interactions, all infants strongly preferred to attend to the agent that initiates an interaction and trails behind another. Low-level features, such as changes in agent-specific velocity profiles, could not account for this preference (Study 2). Rather, the strong preference for the agent going behind seems to be dependent on the initial goal-directed or "heat-seeking" motion of one agent toward another (Study 3). The current set of experiments suggests that, similar to adults, 5 months-olds' visual attention depends on the motion features of an individual agent within the interaction and is fine-tuned to agents that display goal-directed motion toward other agents.

Keyword
Visual attention, Social interactions, Social perception, Infant, Eye tracking, Chasing
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-298836 (URN)10.1016/j.jecp.2016.02.010 (DOI)000376698100004 ()27017143 (PubMedID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, VR-2011-1528
Available from: 2016-07-11 Created: 2016-07-11 Last updated: 2017-05-12Bibliographically approved
3. How social is the chaser?: Neural correlates of chasing perception in 9-month-old infants
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How social is the chaser?: Neural correlates of chasing perception in 9-month-old infants
2016 (English)In: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, ISSN 1878-9293, E-ISSN 1878-9307, Vol. 19, 270-278 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We investigated the neural correlates of chasing perception in infancy to determine whether animated interactions are processed as social events. By using EEG and an ERP design with animations of simple geometric shapes, we examined whether the positive posterior (P400) component, previously found in response to social stimuli, as well as the attention related negative fronto-central component (Nc), differs when infants observed a chaser versus a non-chaser. In Study 1, the chaser was compared to an inanimate object. In Study 2, the chaser was compared to an animate but not chasing agent (randomly moving agent). Results demonstrate no difference in the Nc component, but statistically higher P400 amplitude when the chasing agent was compared to either an inanimate object or a random object. We also find a difference in the N290 component in both studies and in the P200 component in Study 2, when the chasing agent is compared to the randomly moving agent. The present studies demonstrate for the first time that infants' process correlated motion such as chasing as a social interaction. The perception of the chasing agent elicits stronger time-locked responses, denoting a link between motion perception and social cognition.

Keyword
P400, Animacy perception, Chasing
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-299733 (URN)10.1016/j.dcn.2016.05.0051878 (DOI)000378032000027 ()27258722 (PubMedID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, VR-2011-1528EU, European Research Council, 312292
Available from: 2016-07-26 Created: 2016-07-26 Last updated: 2017-05-12Bibliographically approved

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