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Vicarious Social Touch perception in infants

Social touch is crucial for development, well-being, and it is one of the most efficient ways to communicate affective emotions. Studies of infants’ reactions to tactile stimulation suggest that they react to social touch from an early age. However, very little research has been done on the early ontogeny of social touch perception through observation.

The present project aims to tackle three main aims: (i) study whether comparable physiological markers, including a decrease in heart rate, as found in adults, are associated with observing positive socio-tactile interactions in infants; (ii) investigate the role of the somatosensory cortex in infants’ processing of social touch, and its relationship with physiological markers; and (iii) assess whether infants draw inferences about social relations upon observing tactile interactions.

Altogether, these studies will provide key evidence about the way infants develop the capacity to discriminate between different types of socio-tactile interactions at physiological and neural levels; and pave the way to better understand how infants are able to map their social surroundings through observation.

Project team lead
Louise Kirsch
Project team lead
Olivier Mascaro

Project supported by