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Chapter 2

PSYB32H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Almost Surely, Habituation, Institute For Operations Research And The Management Sciences


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYB32H3
Professor
Letergesse
Chapter
2

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Chapter 2 Endogenous and exogenous influences in development
Human beings acquire information both from biology and culture in the acquisition of various social cognitive
milestones. Just like other animals, humans have innate predispositions that not only contain the blueprint for
physical maturation but, unlike many animal species, human infants have domains that contain sets of
representations that sustain a specific area of knowledge such as language, number, and physics but also sociality.
I like to argue that the development of an awareness of the mental states of others requires considerable social
interaction in order to develop into the complex capacity that it is. However, not all environmental and social
interactions are beneficial or important for ToM development. Therefore, the specific social domain contains
knowledge of people, but also domain specific constraints that propel infants to focus on input that is specific to
people and their mental states. Thus the endogenous processes or predispositions facilitate engagement in pre-
linguistic dyadic communication. During these interactions, infants share emotions and imitate the expressions of
people, thereby enhancing mutual awareness and promoting identification with social partners. The endogenous
processes allow infants to adapt to, and to learn from, the external environment, to optimize and also to recognize
exogenous factors that are especially important for ToM development. Exogenous factors interact with the
endogenous factors, and play a formative role in the development of an understanding of the mental states of
people. The endogenous and exogenous processes also propel infants into the subsequent triadic state, where
infants begin to communicate with conspecifics about objects and interesting events. During the triadic state,
infants show and request objects, they point out interesting events in the environment with gestures and
vocalizations, and they show that they are aware when others reference, want, or desire objects. Infants have
endogenous factors that give them a head start in the developmental process and prepare them to take advantage of
species-specific exogenous factors.
Endogenous factors
“like me”
Infants’ innate abilities to recognize that they are similar to other people, that they are of the same species as
humans and different from other animals and physical objects, are important factors in the development of a
Theory of Mind. Rather than just being shaped and reinforced for producing closer approximations of adult
behaviors, infants are innately programmed to identify with conspecifics and to interact with them. Through such
social interactions infants’ understanding of other minds becomes consolidated.
Preference for human stimuli
From birth, infants actively use their visual and auditory systems to acquire information about their surroundings
and themselves. Infants are visually attracted to movement, contour, contrast, certain levels of complexity, and
curvature. Using preferential looking paradigms of two-dimensional stimuli, researchers have shown that by 2
months, infants discriminate between the faces of mothers and female strangers (Barrera and Maurer, 1981), and
by 4 months, they distinguish among the faces of a man, woman, and a baby (Fagan, 1972). The results suggest
that rather than having to construct a notion of a human face out of the various physical parameters mentioned
above, infants may be born with some kind of template for ‘‘faceness’’ (e.g. primal specification of some
structural characteristics of the human face called ‘‘CONSPEC’’. Newborns spend more time looking at their
mothers’ faces than at strangers’ faces. This demonstrates that they are able to recognize their mothers’ faces as
familiar and suggest that this activity cannot be regulated by sensory information alone, it must also involve
information stored in memory, that is, some of this information is represented by infants. Auditory perception also
appears to be well developed in newborns. Unlike the visual system, the auditory system is stimulated in utero .
Preferential sucking paradigms have shown that newborns attend preferentially to human speech over other

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sounds. At one month, they make fine distinctions among speech sounds and discriminate between linguistic
contrasts not available in their mother tongue. Newborns also retain information about syllables and, just as with
human face stimuli, infants at birth recognize the voices of their mothers (to whom they were familiarized in the
womb) from those of female strangers. These findings suggest that infants are prepared to recognize and represent
human stimuli. Because infants have demonstrated that they represent information of visual and auditory
stimulation of people, this sensitivity for social stimuli may already be at a more structural rather than simply a
perceptual level. It appears that infants with autism do not show such preference for human stimulation; these
infants also have shortcomings in the development of a Theory of Mind. These findings support the idea that an
early preference for human stimuli can be regarded as precursors to Theory of Mind development.
Imitation and cross-modal perception
The special awareness infants have for people is evident in their preference for human stimuli, but also in the
various social responses infants produce when facing people. For instance, soon after birth infants imitate gestures
of people, but not of inanimate objects that simulate these gestures . This indicates that imitation is a social
mechanism to learn about people. When humans behave, or imitate the behavior of the infant, they reflect how
infants behave, and consequently how they feel and what they intend. Through this recreation, infants begin to
focus on the meaning of these behaviors rather than on the physical features. Thus the ability to re-create the
behaviors of others make these behaviors significant. It allows for imitative learning to take place. Imitative
learning or intentional imitation occurs when infants learn to separate the means from their goals, thereby
demonstrating an understanding of something about human intentions. The earliest evidence of infant imitation
can be found in neonatal reproduction of mouth opening and tongue protrusions, proprioceptive types of behaviors
that infants can only feel themselves produce, but not see. According to Piaget the senses are not coordinated at
birth. Thus an object heard cannot be identified with an object seen. These modalities (the visual, auditory, and
others) become coordinated in infancy through experience through touching, grabbing, and shaking things, infants
come to perceive that the rattle is a round, shining sound-producing object, rather than a series of unconnected
stimuli. Adults use language when communicating between the senses. They tell the visual sense that the sound
that woke them up in the middle of the night was produced by the basketball player in front of the house. Because
infants do not have language, how do infants communicate from one sense to the other? Meltzoff and Moore
(1977) argue that neonatal imitation is made possible through cross-modal matching. Cross-modal matching, or
‘‘active intermodal mapping,’’ is an ability that allows the infant to communicate between the senses through an
abstract representational system that is not modality specific. When infants perceive human acts in one modality
(e.g. visual, auditory), this information is stored in amodal form (not modality specific). This way it can be
recognized and used by other senses. In the case of imitating proprioceptive acts, such as mouth opening and
tongue protrusion, the infant can reproduce (tactile modality) the act seen (visual modality). In order to imitate
infants must perceive and then reproduce the vocal sounds of the actor (just like the infants do with facial
movements). The speech infants hear has multimodal qualities. When adults speak, the voice not only emanates
from the mouth, but the lip movements match the pattern of the spoken language . The perception of speech
sounds by adults and infants has been shown to be influenced by both auditory and visual properties of the vocal
act. Who heard /a/ vowels responded with /a/ vowels, and those who heard the /i/ vowels responded with /i/
vowels. However, Kuhl and Meltzoff did not vary independently the visual and auditory components involved in
reproduction of the speech signal, and therefore it is not clear whether the infants were imitating the sound
produced by filmed faces or the mouth movements (the proprioceptive movements). Only the imitation of the
mouth movements would imply cross-modal mapping (e.g. the kinesthetic reproduction of a visually perceived
target). We addressed this concern . We presented 3 4-month-old infants with the vowel sounds /a/ and /u/. For
one half of the infants, these sounds were paired with an adult who silently articulated the same vowel; for the
other half, the adult articulated the opposite one. Only the infants who were exposed to matched auditory and
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visual information were observed to imitate the vowels . Clearly, infants paid attention to both the sound and the
mouth movement. Thus, according to Meltzoff and Moore , imitation allows infants through cross-modal matching
to perceive others to be ‘‘like me.’’ This ‘‘like me’’ awareness is the starting or building block for social cognition
and not an end-point after months of postnatal learning. Infants imitate actions of people and not of inanimate
objects, not only informs about the endogenous ability of infants to perceive others ‘‘like me,’’ but it also suggests
something about the imitative response. Rather than being a reflexive response, that can be elicited by certain
stimuli (those that seem to move toward the mouth, are self-propelled, or have a particular form, shape copies of
social stimuli such as tongues, mouths, hands, and faces), imitation is a social mechanism that ‘‘offers a unique
channel for early communication, one in which both the timing and form of the exchange gives both partners the
opportunity to share reciprocally in the exchange’’. Infants imitate actions of people and not of inanimate objects,
not only informs about the endogenous ability of infants to perceive others ‘‘like me,’’ but it also suggests
something about the imitative response. Rather than being a reflexive response, that can be elicited by certain
stimuli (those that seem to move toward the mouth, are self-propelled, or have a particular form, shape copies of
social stimuli such as tongues, mouths, hands, and faces), imitation is a social mechanism that ‘‘offers a unique
channel for early communication, one in which both the timing and form of the exchange gives both partners the
opportunity to share reciprocally in the exchange’
Emotional awareness, mutual sharing of emotions, innate sense of attunement
The early demonstrations that infants imitate only the gestures of people, and not of inanimate objects that
simulate social acts, supports the idea that infants perceive people to be similar. Infants perceive others as similar
to self because they recognize equivalences between perceived and executed acts as a function of cross-modal
mapping. Thus the perceptual mechanism of cross-modal mapping is the starting state for the infants. In my view,
infants perceive others to be ‘‘like me’’ because they are born with an affect sharing device (AFS) that is made up
of three components that interact together; they are (1) self-inferential processes that allow infants an awareness of
their own mental states through the perception of their own emotions, and (2) inter-personal awareness that allows
infants to recognize the emotions of others, and (3) innate sense of emotional attunement. Infants are born with the
ability to perceive global happy and unhappy emotions. Neonates discriminate and imitate these emotions. When
infants are in an emotional state they have particular mental experiences. Thus, the earliest simple mental states are
associated with feelings and emotions. When infants engage with others who reflect their emotions back to them,
infants, through the workings of the AFS, attribute the same mental experience they have to others. The ASF
allows infants to communicate and develop in interaction with others pre-verbally. Through the innate sense of
emotional attunement, infants recognize whether the emotions of self and others are on the same level; whether
they are congruent. If they are, infants identify with people and through this understanding develop shared
representations. Attuned interaction reduces and prevents the overlapping of shared representations, thereby
fostering social and cognitive independence. Tronick proposed that infants have an intrinsic motivation to interact
with other people, e.g. to have relational intentions. From birth, infants produce organized actions that are specific
for interacting with people. During these mutual conversations infants gaze almost continuously at their partners
while sharing emotional states through vocalizations and emotional gestures of the face, body, hands, and arms.
These proto-conversations have a definite turn-taking structure which appears as the result of both maternal and
infant pause and vocal outbursts. During this ‘‘turntaking’’ and through the sharing of their affective states infants
are revealing their ‘‘intersubjective’’ nature. Thus infants possess capabilities to perform simple inferences such as
‘‘if I smile, I feel happy; if you smile, you might feel happy as well’’. I am in favor of a continuous proposal for
the infant’s understanding of the mental world. Sharing of emotions requires the ability to represent the specific
emotional state. Through mechanisms of cross-modal matching and affect sharing infants are able to identify
emotions amodally and mentally from birth. What that means is that infants represent any social stimulation
(intraor interpersonal environmental) in an amodal way so that information from any source can be applied not
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