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Abstract

The developing infant learns about the physical and the social world by engaging with objects and with people. In the study reported here, we investigated the relationship between infants’ interactions with the physical and the social world. Three-month-old infants were trained for 2 weeks and experienced either actively manipulating objects themselves or passively having objects touched to their hands. Following active or passive experiences, spontaneous orienting towards faces and objects was compared between the trained groups and untrained 3- and 5-month-olds. It is known that the onset of reaching behavior increases infants’ interest in objects. However, we report that active, self-produced reaching experiences also increase infants’ spontaneous orienting towards faces, while passive experiences do not affect orienting behavior. Regression analyses provide evidence for a link between manual engagement and the development of orienting towards faces. Implications of orienting towards faces for the development of triadic interactions, joint attention, and social cognition in general are discussed.