Foundations of attention sharing: Orienting and responding to attention in term and preterm 5-month-old infants

Infant Behav Dev. 2020 Nov:61:101466. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2020.101466. Epub 2020 Sep 11.


Attention is the gateway to perceptual, cognitive, and socioemotional development in humans. We observed 104 5-month-old term and preterm infants and their mothers in social interactions to address three questions about the role of maturation in orienting and responding to attention. We used a fine-grained coding system to allow parallel comparisons across infant and maternal orienting, and sequential analysis to evaluate infant and maternal responding to attention. Orienting and responding to attention differed for attention to people versus objects, as did the relations between maturity and attention. We conclude that maturity contributes to orienting and responding to attention and that orienting and responding to attention are specific rather than homogenous. We discuss the implications of these conclusions for future studies of how attention influences cognitive and communicative development.

Keywords: Attention; Contingency; Infancy; Parenting; Prematurity; Responsiveness.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / physiology*
  • Infant Behavior / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Infant, Premature / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology
  • Orientation, Spatial / physiology*