Infants spend most of their waking time interacting with their caregivers, and the mechanisms through which these dynamic social exchanges shape the development of sub-personal processes such as attention and learning remain mysterious. Most of our understanding of how the brain subserves early attention and learning has come from studies that viewed infants as relatively passive recipient of information, and studied individual brains in isolation. Correspondingly, we know very little about the neural substrates of how information is shared between caregivers and infants during learning interactions. The aim of this project is to shed unprecedented light on how dynamic social interactions affect attention and learning during infancy. I will build both on my own recent research, that has shown that internal metacognitive monitoring and epistemic requests from the infant shape social interactions and learning more than had previously been thought, and combine this approach - that views the infant as an active component of early social interactions - with innovative research by my supervisor that provides the possibility to record brain activity from infants and their caregivers simultaneously while they are interacting, and to analyze them with specific tools that allow a fine description of the dynamics of these interaction. Combining these two approaches will provide invaluable insight into the mechanisms involved during early learning in social contexts. Our findings will have substantial implications for theories of development, as well as diagnostic and educational practices. More specifically, increasing our understanding of the complex dynamics between infants and their social partners is essential for: i) enriching developmental theory; ii) developing new techniques to optimize learning and iii) understanding the mechanisms that give rise to developmental delays.
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