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Selective facial mimicry of native over foreign speakers in preverbal infants

de Klerk, Carina CJM and Bulgarelli, Chiara and Hamilton, Antonia and Southgate, Victoria (2019) 'Selective facial mimicry of native over foreign speakers in preverbal infants.' Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 183. pp. 33-47. ISSN 0022-0965

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Mimicry, the spontaneous copying of others’ behaviors, plays an important role in social affiliation, with adults selectively mimicking in-group members over out-group members. Despite infants’ early documented sensitivity to cues to group membership, previous work suggests that it is not until 4 years of age that spontaneous mimicry is modulated by group status. Here we demonstrate that mimicry is sensitive to cues to group membership at a much earlier age if the cues presented are more relevant to infants. 11-month-old infants observed videos of facial actions (e.g., mouth opening, eyebrow raising) performed by models who either spoke the infants’ native language or an unfamiliar foreign language while we measured activation of the infants’ mouth and eyebrow muscle regions using electromyography to obtain an index of mimicry. We simultaneously used functional near-infrared spectroscopy to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying differential mimicry responses. We found that infants showed greater facial mimicry of the native speaker compared to the foreign speaker and that the left temporal parietal cortex was activated more strongly during the observation of facial actions performed by the native speaker compared to the foreign speaker. Although the exact mechanisms underlying this selective mimicry response will need to be investigated in future research, these findings provide the first demonstration of the modulation of facial mimicry by cues to group status in preverbal infants and suggest that the foundations for the role that mimicry plays in facilitating social bonds seem to be present during the first year of life.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mimicry; Infancy; Group membership; TPJ; fNIRS; EMG
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2019 16:03
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:58

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