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The link between maternal interaction style and infant action understanding

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Hofer, T., Hohenberger, A., Hauf, P., & Aschersleben, G. (2008). The link between maternal interaction style and infant action understanding. Infant Behavior and Development, 31(1), 115-126. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2007.07.003.

The present study investigates whether the maternal interaction style is related to 6-month-old infants’ action interpretation. We tested 6-month-olds ability to interpret an unfamiliar human action as goal-directed using a modified version of the paradigm used by Woodward, A. L. (1999). Infant's ability to distinguish between purposeful and non-purposeful behaviours. Infant Behavior & Development, 22, 145–160 and Király, I., Jovanovic, B., Prinz, W., Aschersleben, G., & Gergely, G. (2003). The early origins of goal attribution in infancy. Consciousness & Cognition, 12, 732–751. Additionally, all infants and their mothers participated in a free play situation to assess maternal interaction styles as measured by the CARE-Index. According to mothers’ distinct interaction styles, infants were divided into three groups. Results suggest that at 6 months of age infants of mothers with a modestly controlling interaction style are better at interpreting a human action as goal-directed than infants of sensitive and relative unresponsive mothers. The ability to understand human action as goal-directed might be a corollary of an adaptive strategy in infancy.