The role of intersensory redundancy in the emergence of social referencing in 5½-month-old infants

Dev Psychol. 2012 Jan;48(1):1-9. doi: 10.1037/a0025263. Epub 2011 Sep 5.


Early evidence of social referencing was examined in 5½-month-old infants. Infants were habituated to 2 films of moving toys, one toy eliciting a woman's positive emotional expression and the other eliciting a negative expression under conditions of bimodal (audiovisual) or unimodal visual (silent) speech. It was predicted that intersensory redundancy provided by audiovisual (but not available in unimodal visual) events would enhance detection of the relation between emotional expressions and the corresponding toy. Consistent with predictions, only infants who received bimodal, audiovisual events detected a change in the affect-object relations, showing increased looking during a switch test in which the toy-affect pairing was reversed. Moreover, in a subsequent live preference test, they preferentially touched the 3-dimensional toy previously paired with the positive expression. These findings suggest social referencing emerges by 5½ months in the context of intersensory redundancy provided by dynamic multimodal stimulation and that even 5½-month-old infants demonstrate preferences for 3-dimensional objects on the basis of affective information depicted in videotaped events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Expressed Emotion / physiology*
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Orientation*
  • Photic Stimulation