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ACQUISITION OF SOCIAL REFERENCING VIA DISCRIMINATION TRAINING IN INFANTS

Authors


  • We thank Jennifer Hammond, Tiffany Field, Paul Fleming, Yalda Amir Kiaei, and Toby L. Martin for their thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We also are indebted to Claire Villate and Aida Sanchez for their assistance in data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Javier Virués Ortega, University of Manitoba, Psychology Department, P518 Duff Roblin Bldg., 190 Dysart Rd., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada (e-mail: javier_virues@umanitoba.ca).

Abstract

This experiment investigated social referencing as a form of discriminative learning in which maternal facial expressions signaled the consequences of the infant's behavior in an ambiguous context. Eleven 4- and 5-month-old infants and their mothers participated in a discrimination-training procedure using an ABAB design. Different consequences followed infants' reaching toward an unfamiliar object depending on the particular maternal facial expression. During the training phases, a joyful facial expression signaled positive reinforcement for the infant reaching for an ambiguous object, whereas a fearful expression signaled aversive stimulation for the same response. Baseline and extinction conditions were implemented as controls. Mothers' expressions acquired control over infants' approach behavior for all participants. All participants ceased to show discriminated responding during the extinction phase. The results suggest that 4- and 5-month-old infants can learn social referencing via discrimination training.

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