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Lecture 3

PSYCO347 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Empathic Accuracy, Attachment Theory, Face Perception

Course Code
Jennifer Passey

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Chapter 3: Our social nature
Relationships: Our evolutionary heritage
-human survival has depended on banding together and work cooperatively to overcome the
environmental hazards and obstacles that we face
-our selection of small group living
The need to belong:
-represents of the most basic aspects of our evolved mentality, humans are motivated to establish
and maintain interpersonal bonds
-what we seem to need is frequent, positive interactions in the context of an ongoing and valued
-our social nature is wired into our biological makeup-indeed, that is the very essence of what
makes us human
The human infant: born “ready to relate”
-all babies are born with a set of innate biological endowments that facilitate social interaction
and relationship formation
The attachment system:
Attachment- defined as the innate and adaptive “propensity of human beings to make strong
affectional bonds to particular others”
Attachment theory- human infants enter the world predisposed to emotionally bind themselves to
the mother, father, or other primary caregiver. This manifests itself in a set of instinctive, goal-
directed responses, called attachment behaviors, which serve to promote physical proximity to
primary caregivers (called attachment figures) and thereby enhance the infants’ chances of
-common attachment behaviors include crying, sucking, smiling, clinging, and following
Differences in attachment pattern:
-an infant’s attachment behaviors are designed to “pull” supportive behavior from his or her
primary attachment figures by activating an innate caregiving system
-parents of crying babies generally experience a strong urge to behave in ways that reduce their
infant’s distress
-to assess qualitative differences in attachment, relationship scientists typically use the Strange
Situation procedure- activates the attachment system by exposing young children to “strange” or
unfamiliar people and settings in a laboratory situation. This procedure consists of 8 episodes, all
but the first of which last 3 mins. A brief 30 second intro to the lab room, the caregiver and child
are left alone for 3 mins. A stranger then enters, remaining 3 mins in the room with both the mom
and child and then signaling the mother to leave. After the child has been alone with the stranger
for a period of time, the mother returns and the stranger leaves. The mom exists once more, and
the child is left alone in the room. Finally, the stranger re-enters the room and is joined 3 mins
later by the mother. The child’s responses are used to assess the quality of his or her attachment
to the caregiver. Behaviors- particularly those enacted during the two reunion episodes- are
scored for proximity seeking (efforts to gain or regain physical contact with the mom); contact
maintenance (efforts to maintain self-initiated physical contact with the mother); avoidance (any
active avoidance of proximity to or interaction with the mom); resistance (negative behavior in
response to mom’s contact attempts); and crying
-children display one of three kinds of behavior patterns during the strange situation; which is
secure, insecure/resistant, or insecure/ avoidant
Secure attachment- children display high levels of proximity seeking and contact-maintaining
behavior and little to no resistant or avoidant behavior. They tend to use the caregiver as a secure
base for exploration in the unfamiliar room. When they become distressed they actively seek out
the mom for comfort. In the mother’s absence, they are not unduly upset and confident in the
mothers return. This behavior is rooted in a history of reliable caregiving, sensitivity, and
responsiveness to the child’s expression of need. About 2/3 of children demonstrate this pattern
in US.
Insecure attachment- two forms, 1/3 of children
Insecure/resistant attachment- or called anxious/resistant or anxious/ambivalent. Children who
display this appear unable to use the caregiver as a secure base for exploration. They engage in
little exploration even in the caregiver’s presence, preferring to remain in contact with her, and
have low tolerance for threat. Although the children became distressed when the caregiver
leaves, they angrily resist the caregiver upon their return. \Such behavior may be grounded in a
history of inconsistent, chaotic, hit-or-miss caregiving
Insecrelavoidant attachment- or called anxious/avoidant. Children treat the caregiver much as
they do the stranger, not distressed when she leaves and do not seek contact when they return.
They show low levels of proximity seeking or contact-maintaining behavior and high levels of
active avoidance. This behavioral pattern is believed to reflect a history of rejection and/or
emotional unavailability from the caregiver, particularly during times of need
-perhaps the quality of the children’s early attachment relationship will reflect later relationships
-from the first relationship the child develops a set of internalized expectations and beliefs about
what other people are like as well as internalized views of himself or herself as valued and self-
reliant or unworthy and incompetent. These internal working models, in turn, influence the
child’s interpersonal expectations and behaviors, and, therefore, his or her subsequent outcomes.
The face perceptual system:
-children are born in the world able to recognize faces
-born with a rudimentary face perceptual system that is mediated by subcortical structures and
that causes newborns to orient toward any stimulus that is sufficiently “face-like”
-infants will respond more readily to objects that have a t-shaped structure that resemble a face
Second-order relational information- children learn the rules of faces, with shape, movement,
and spatial relations (distance between their eyes)
-children raised by a female or male with show more recognition to the gender raising them, as
well as recognize the racial or ethnic group they are raised in known as the other-race effect
-faces give clues to thoughts, feelings and behavioral intentions
Empathic accuracy:
-face perception is vital to empathic accuracy, or the ability to accurately decode the meaning of
or infer the content of another person’s thoughts and feelings
Empathic accuracy, in turn, is a key component of a larger skill set called interpersonal
sensitivity- refers to how well an individual “reads” other people and how appropriately he or
she is able to respond to their cues
-infants use this because they cannot yet use spoken language, they can recognize different
intensities of the same expression across individuals
-infants react greatly to eye contact
-infants learn to rapidly adjust their own behavior in response to the emotional info shown to
them by people’s facial expressions
Still-face paradigm- a methodological procedure which allows researchers to explore infants’
sensitivity to changes in adults’ facial expression, as well as, their capacity to regulate their own
internal states. The still-face paradigm consists of three age-appropriate, infant-adult interaction
episodes, each lasting between 2 and 3 minutes: (1) a face-to-face episode during which the
infant and adult engage in normal social interaction; (2) a still-face episode during which the
adult continues to look at the infant but assumes an affectively neutral, still face and remains
unresponsive ; and (3) a reunion episode during which the adult resumes normal, face-to-face