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Synchrony of Caresses: Does Affective Touch Help Infants to Detect Body-Related Visual–Tactile Synchrony?

Della Longa, Letizia and Filippetti, Maria Laura and Dragovic, Danica and Farroni, Teresa (2020) 'Synchrony of Caresses: Does Affective Touch Help Infants to Detect Body-Related Visual–Tactile Synchrony?' Frontiers in Psychology, 10. ISSN 1664-1078

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Abstract

Bodily self-awareness, that is the ability to sense and recognize our body as our own, involves the encoding and integration of a wide range of multisensory and motor signals. Infants’ abilities to detect synchrony and bind together sensory information in time and space critically contribute to the process of gradual bodily self-awareness. In particular, early tactile experiences may have a crucial role in promoting self-other differentiation and developing bodily self-awareness. More specifically affective touch, slow and gentle touch linked to the neurophysiologically specialized system of C-tactile afferents, provides both information about the body from within (interoception) and outside (exteroception), suggesting it may be a key component contributing to the experience of bodily self-awareness. The present study aimed to investigate the role of affective touch in the formation and modulation of body perception from the earliest stages of life. Using a preferential looking task, 5-month-old infants were presented with synchronous and asynchronous visuo–tactile body-related stimuli. The socio-affective valence of the tactile stimuli was manipulated by means of the velocity [CT-optimal (slow) touch vs. CT-suboptimal (fast) touch] and the source of touch (human hand vs. brush). For the first time, we show that only infants that were stroked using a brush at slow velocity displayed a preference for the visual–tactile synchronous video, suggesting that CT-optimal touch might help infants to detect body-related visual–tactile synchrony, independently from the source of touch. Our results are in line with findings from adults and indicate that affective touch might have a critical role in the early development of bodily self-awareness.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: body awareness, multisensory, affective touch, visual preference, infancy
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2020 14:53
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2020 14:53
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/26385

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