World of faces, words and actions: Observations and neural linkages in early life
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
From the start of their lives, infants and young children are surrounded by a tremendous amount of multimodal social information. One intriguing question in the study of early social cognition is how vital social information is detected and processed and how and when young infants begin to make sense of what they see and hear and learn to understand other people’s behavior.
The overall aim of this thesis was to provide new insights to this exciting field. Investigating behavior and/or neural mechanisms in early life, the three different studies included in this thesis therefore strive to increase our understanding on perception and processing of social information.
Study I used eye-tracking to examine infants´ observations of gaze in a third-party context. The results showed that 9-, 16- and 24-month-old infants differentiate between the body orientations of two individuals on the basis of static visual information. More particularly, they shift their gaze more often between them when the social partners face each other than when they are turned away from each other. Using ERP technique, Study II demonstrated that infants at the age of 4 to 5 months show signs of integrating visual and auditory information at a neural level. Further, direct gaze in combination with backwards-spoken words leads to earlier or enhanced neural processing in comparison to other gaze-word combinations. Study III, also an EEG investigation, found that children between 18 and 30 months of age show a desynchronization of the mu rhythm during both the observation and execution of object-directed actions. Also, the results suggest motor system activation when young children observe others’ mimed actions. To summarize, the findings reported in this thesis strengthen the idea that infants are sensitive to others´ gaze and that this may extend to third-party contexts. Also, gaze is processed together with other information, for instance words, even before infants are able to understand others’ vocabulary. Furthermore, the motor system in young children is active during both the observation and imitation of another person’s goal-directed actions. This is in line with findings in infants, children and adults, indicating that these processes are linked at neural level.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. , 85 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 126
Infant development, Eye-tracking, EEG, third-party interactions, crossmodal integration, gaze processing, speech processing, mu desynchronization, action perception, imitation
Research subject Psychology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281242ISBN: 978-91-554-9535-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-281242DiVA: diva2:916103
2016-05-18, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Heimann, Mikael, Professor
Gredebäck, Gustafvon Hofsten, Claes
List of papers