Twelve-month "social revolution" emerges from mother-infant sensory-motor coordination: A longitudinal investigation

Authors: de Barbaro, K., Johnson, C., Deak, G.O.

Previous accounts of the development of triadic attention identify a ‘‘curious’’ shift around nine to twelve months. We introduce a novel approach inspired by distributed and embodied cognition frameworks. In a longitudinal study of five mother-infant dyads, videos of home play interactions were recorded over the infants’ first year. We scrutinized the real-time organization of mother-infant sensorimotor activity, including the targets of hands, gaze, and mouth, as the dyad members attended to one another and
to toys. We identified a pervasive developmental pattern: At four months, infants converged all sensory modalities on objects introduced by the mother. From six to twelve months, infants showed increasing decoupling of hands and eyes and increasingly elaborate sequences in multi -object play. Concurrently, dyads engaged in increasingly elaborate social exchanges (e.g., turn-taking) as mothers adapted to infants’ sensorimotor skills. We therefore theorize that triadic attention emerges not as a novel form of social cognition but as a continuous product of sensorimotor development, scaffolded by parents’ expanding social actions.