Infant-parents play is cute and fun to watch, but it also provides a unique window into the complexity of social ‘co-direction’ of action. So, our painstaking work is to document the details of play actions. Parents and infants will produce a wide variety of behaviors at different rates and sequences, and those behaviors are affected by many contextual factors (e.g., mood, environment, other participants, etc.). Underneath this variability, though, parents’ behaviors might be regular enough for infants to learn to make probabilistic predictions about parents’ next moves. For example, this graph shows the distribution of parents’ looking times to different targets during naturalistic play from a recent study. What are the ramifications of parents’ tendency to focus so much on their infant’s face?We studied how infants could learn social skills from parents' structured behaviors,
Triadic interactions start around infants' first birthday: What are they, and where do they come from?
Another possibility is that infants gradually develop…triadic interaction skills as they learn to divide their sensory-motor modalities (e.g., holding different objects in each hand, and looking between them) and therefore divide their attention. This also depends on parents responding to their infants’ expanding ‘multi-tasking’ abilities. In fact, de Barbaro, Johnson and Deák (2013) found that parents of 4-month-olds tend to govern infants’ attention to objects: when the parent presents a toy, the infant goes ‘all in,’ using both hands, eyes, and even their mouth to focus on that toy until the parents presents a new toy. But gradually, at 6 and 9 months of age, these interactions become ‘negotiations’ of attention, with infants shifting gaze between objects and or holding on to their own object while watching the parent’s object…and most parents start to let their infant control the flow of play.