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Tracking and evaluating social relations and potential partners in infancy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PARTNERS (Tracking and evaluating social relations and potential partners in infancy)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-12-31

In order to navigate the social world, children must understand how social interactions unfold and what kinds of social relations exist in their society. We study whether human infants and young children are able to infer the social relations that underlie observed social interactions by assuming that the costs and benefits that these interactions produce to each party reflect the nature of their relation. We aim to establish whether drawing inferences to social relations enjoys the priority in the infant mind over attribution of social dispositions, in other words, whether babies explain social interactions by the traits of the participating individuals or by their long-term relations. We also ask whether and how children use these inferences for tracking people across contexts and for choosing social partners for themselves.

We can learn from the outcome of this project how early our biases to blame or praise others for their actions develop and how much of that depends on social learning.
So far we found that if an action produces good outcome for someone (for example, provides her a desirable object), babies think that this was the reason why the action was performed - even if alternative explanations are also available. They also think that giving and taking actions are more likely to be reciprocated within a pair of actors than responded with a different action, and pay attention to what objects have been donated to an interaction. However, so far we found no evidence that one-year-olds would understand helping actions or would preferentially choose helpers as social partners.
We have developed an iPad game specifically for studying how children use social partners. This is a research tool that is capable to address many different types of questions and is an enjoyable game in itself as well. The game circumvents problems that researchers face when they ask children verbal questions or expect them to imagine how they would behave in imagined situations. This game is being tested now and will be released for the user of other researchers.
The starting screen of the iPad game developed for the project.