Abstract # 161:

Scheduled for Friday, June 19, 2015 04:15 PM-04:30 PM: (Cascade E) Oral Presentation


A. Paukner1, E. A. Simpson1,2, P. F. Ferrari2 and S. J. Suomi1
1Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA, 2Universita di Parma, Parma, Italy
     In both humans and rhesus macaques, mothers commonly engage in complex face-to-face exchanges with newborns, including mutual gaze and intense facial expressions. In the current study, we tested the effects of early social interactions on social viewing preferences in infant rhesus macaques. Infants were separated from their mothers on the day of birth and were randomly assigned to one of three groups: in the face-to-face group, human caregivers lipsmacked at infants in 5-min-long sessions, four times a day, from the first day of life until 28 days old (n=15). Infants in the extra-handling group were held for the same durations as the face-to-face group, but did not receive the face-to-face interactions (n=14). Infants in the standard rearing group did not see facial gestures and received no handling beyond standard nursery care and (non-related) experimental procedures (n=16). When infants were 40 days old, we presented them with side-by-side videos of a social and a non-social scene, and measured their visual preferences via a remote eye tracker. Results show that only infants in the face-to-face group looked significantly longer at the social scene compared to the non-social scene (t-test, alpha = 0.05, P=0.020 two-tailed). These results suggest that facial interactions have the potential to significantly affect infants’ social-behavioral development, and that early intervention efforts might be highly effective in compensating for lack of early social interactions.