Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

More than Meets the Eye: From Stress to Scaffolding, A Microgenesis of Infant Attention
by de Barbaro, Kaya, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2012, 191; 3507894
Abstract (Summary)

A widely accepted view in developmental science is that infants are biologically prepared to learn complex behaviors via their experiences interacting in a dynamic world with social agents who are responsive to their activity. However, current methods for studying the complex processes of interaction are lagging. Traditional methods identify the products of development, and privilege infants' internal structure as the cause of new social-cognitive skills and the essence of developmental change. In my dissertation, I use methods inspired by embodied and distributed cognition to precisely capture interaction as it unfolds from moment-to-moment. I use these methods to support and develop novel theories of infant development.

In my first study we expand upon classic looking time studies to collect a heterogeneous set of measures of infant looking-behaviors in a naturalistic environment. Our data suggest that looking-behaviors are not strictly a function of the time infants require to encode stimulus properties, but also are affected by factors such as uncertainty and psychological stress.

My second study is based in the tradition of naturalistic observation. In a longitudinal dataset spanning the first year, we precisely track the targets of infants' and mothers' multiple sensorimotor modalities—the hands, gaze, and mouth—as the dyads attend to one another and to various toys. From these data we characterize a number of developing behavioral trajectories in mother-infant object coordination across the first year. These trajectories ground an alternative theory to the current representational account of the development of social attention (see, e.g. Striano & Reid, 2006). At their youngest (4 months) infants raptly attend to their mothers and to her actions on toys. Over the first year, these early behaviors combine with developing haptic articulation, sensory-motor decoupling, emergence of routines, and maternal scaffolding to produce, by 12 months, increasingly complex triadic interactions. Visualizations and analyses of multimodal patterns that preserve the rich temporal structure of the interaction allow us to confirm elements of this theory.

By precisely capturing infants' interactions we characterize how the dynamics of the infants' growing sensorimotor capacities, and the structure of the social environment provided by caregivers, jointly contribute to infant development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Deak, Gedeon O., Johnson, Christine M.
Commitee: Bartlett, Marian, Carver, Leslie, Chiba, Andrea, Hutchins, Edwin, Littlewort, Gwen, Trivedi, Mohan
School: University of California, San Diego
Department: Cognitive Science
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Attention development, Distributed cognition, Infancy, Parent-child interactions, Social development
Publication Number: 3507894
ISBN: 978-1-267-33390-2
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