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Infant Behav Dev. 2012 Jun;35(3):561-9. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Infants' pre-empathic behaviors are associated with language skills.

Author information

1
Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, UCLA, United States. thutman@mednet.ucla.edu

Abstract

Infants' responses to other people's distress reflect efforts to make sense of affective information about another person and apply it to oneself. This study sought to determine whether 12-month olds' responses to another person's display of negative affect reflect characteristics that support social learning and predict social functioning and language skills at 36 months. Measures of infants' responsiveness include congruent changes in affect and looking time to the person in distress. Attention to the examiner displaying positive affect, analyzed as a control condition, was not related to social functioning or language skills at 36 months. Neither attention nor affective response to the examiner's distress at 12 months was related to social functioning at 36 months. However, longer time spent looking at the examiner feigning distress predicted higher language scores. Moreover, infants who demonstrated a congruent affective response to distress had higher receptive language scores at 36 months than children who did not respond affectively. Importantly, these relations were not mediated by maternal education, household income, or 12-month verbal skills. These findings are consistent with the notion that adaptation to changes in a social partner's affective state supports an infants' ability to glean useful information from interactions with more experienced social partners. Infants' sensitivity to affective signals may thus be related to the ability to interpret other people's behavior and to achieve interpersonal understanding through language.

PMID:
22728336
PMCID:
PMC3428260
DOI:
10.1016/j.infbeh.2012.05.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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