Social context shapes neural processing of others’ actions in 9-month-old infants

Published on Jan 1, 2022in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
· DOI :10.1016/J.JECP.2021.105260
Marlene Meyer16
Estimated H-index: 16
(U of C: University of Chicago),
Haerin Chung (U of C: University of Chicago)+ 2 AuthorsAmanda L. Woodward52
Estimated H-index: 52
(U of C: University of Chicago)
Abstract null null From infancy, neural processes for perceiving others’ actions and producing one’s own actions overlap (neural mirroring). Adults and children show enhanced mirroring in social interactions. Yet, whether social context affects mirroring in infancy, a time when processing others’ actions is crucial for action learning, remains unclear. We examined whether turn-taking, an early form of social interaction, enhanced 9-month-olds’ neural mirroring. We recorded electroencephalography while 9-month-olds were grasping (execution) and observing live grasps (observation). In this design, half of the infants observed and acted in alternation (turn-taking condition), whereas the other half observed several times in a row before acting (blocked condition). Replicating previous findings, infants showed significant 6- to 9-Hz mu suppression (indicating motor activation) during execution and observation (n = 24). In addition, a condition (turn-taking or blocked) by time (action start or end) interaction indicated that infants engaged in turn-taking (n = 9), but not in the blocked context (n = 15), showed more mirroring when observing the action start compared with the action end. Exploratory analyses further suggest that (a) there is higher visual–motor functional connectivity in turn-taking toward the action’s end, (b) mirroring relates to later visual–motor connectivity, and (c) visual attention as indexed by occipital alpha is enhanced in turn-taking compared with the blocked context. Together, this suggests that the neural processing of others’ actions is modulated by the social context in infancy and that turn-taking may be particularly effective in engaging infants’ action perception system.
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