The Role of Maternal Affect Mirroring on Social Expectancies in Three-Month-Old Infants



The role of maternal affect mirroring on the development of prosocial behaviors and social expectancies was assessed in forty-one 2- to 3-month-old infants. Prosocial behavior was characterized as infants' positive behavior and increased attention toward their mothers. Social expectancies were defined as infants' expectancy for affective sharing. Mothers and infants were observed twice, approximately 1 week apart. During Visit 1, mothers and infants were videotaped while interacting over television monitors for 3 min. During Visit 2, infants engaged in a live, 3-min interaction with their mothers over television monitors (live condition) and they also viewed a replay of their mothers' interaction from the preceding week (replay condition). The order of conditions was counterbalanced. Maternal affect mirroring was measured according to the level of attention maintenance, warm sensitivity, and social responsiveness displayed. A natural split was observed with 58% of the mothers ranking high and 42% ranking low on these affect mirroring measures (HAM and LAM, respectively). Infants in the HAM group ranked high on prosocial behaviors and social expectancy — they discriminated between live and replay, conditions with smiles, vocalizations, and gazes. Infants in the LAM group ranked low on these variables — they gazed longer during the live condition than during the replay condition, but only when the live condition was presented first; however, they did not smile or vocalize more. These findings indicate that there is a relation between affect mirroring and social expectancies in infants.