Understanding the self in relation to others: Infants spontaneously map another's face to their own at 16-26 months

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The current study probed whether infants understand themselves in relation to others. Infants aged 16–26 months (n = 102) saw their parent wearing a sticker on their forehead or cheek, depending on experimental condition, placed unwitnessed by the child. Infants then received a sticker themselves, and their spontaneous behavior was coded. Regardless of age, from 16 months, all infants who placed the sticker on their cheek or forehead, placed it on the location on their own face matching their parent's placement. This shows that infants as young as 16 months of age have an internal map of their face in relation to others that they can use to guide their behavior. Whether infants placed the sticker on the matching location was related to other measures associated with self-concept development (the use of their own name and mirror self-recognition), indicating that it may reflect a social aspect of children's developing self-concept, namely their understanding of themselves in relation and comparison to others. About half of the infants placed the sticker on themselves, while others put it elsewhere in the surrounding, indicating an additional motivational component to bring about on themselves the state, which they observed on their parent. Together, infants’ placement of the sticker in our task suggests an ability to compare, and motivation to align, self and others
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13197
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number3
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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