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The link between maternal interaction style and infant action understanding

Hofer, Tanja
Hohenberger, Annette Edeltraud
Hauf, Petra
Aschersleben, Gisa
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 Kiraly, 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.