Karim Afzal, Fielding's School of Psychology
The following questions in the infant social referencing literature are examined: What are the immediate effects of happy-stranger/neutral-mother and angry-stranger/neutralmother dyadic interactions on infant behavioral reactivity? What are the short-term retention effects of the stranger-mother dyadic interactions on the infants’ subsequent behavioral reactions towards the stranger they observed? Twenty 14-month-old infants (10 girls, 10 boys) were examined for their behavioral reactivity towards a neutral (control) stranger who attempted to engage the infants in a play activity (Neutral Stranger-Infant Episode). Next, in a social referencing paradigm, infants were examined for their behavioral reactivity towards happy (i.e., positive) or angry (i.e., negative) stranger expressed emotions directed at their mothers, while their mothers responded neutrally (Emotional Stranger-Mother Episode). Lastly, following a delay of 30 seconds, infants were examined in their behavioral reactivity towards the stranger they observed (happy or angry) when the stranger attempted a play activity (Emotional Stranger-Infant Episode). Mixed between-within MANOVAs were used to evaluate measures of infants’ behavioral reactivity, including their attention (e.g., Stranger, Neither), proximity (e.g., Play/stranger, Mother & Table), and affect (e.g., Very Positive, Neutral, Negative). For attention, proximity, and affect, results revealed no interactions or between-subjects main effects, but there were repeated measure main effects for the episodes. Further, infants’ attention towards Stranger was highest during the Neutral Stranger-Infant Episode, followed by the Emotional Stranger-Infant Episode, and then by the Emotional Stranger- Mother Episode. Infants’ proximity within Play was highest during the Emotional Stranger-Infant Episode, followed by the Neutral Stranger-Infant Episode. Infants’ Positive affect was highest during the Neutral Stranger-Infant Episode, followed by the Emotional Stranger-Mother Episode. Taken together, the implications of these results are that infants exposed to angry-stranger/neutral-mother versus happy-stranger/neutralmother interactions are not affected differently in their behavioral reactivity, and both groups of infants are likely to engage with their respective stranger.
Keywords: Infant social referencing, social-emotional development, stranger