2018-2023 ERC ADVANCED GRANT: Tracking and evaluating social relations and potential partners in infancy (PARTNERS) led by Gergely Csibra

In order to navigate the social world, children must understand how social interactions unfold in their society. While many recent studies have investigated how children evaluate the roles that people play in everyday interactions and what inferences they draw from their observations, to date there is no unifying account for the conceptual repertoire and computational mechanisms used by infants to analyse their social environment. Taking a new theoretical perspective on this topic, we plan to study whether and how human infants and young children are able to infer the social relations that underlie observed interactions. The theoretical background of this approach is based on the combination of two proposals: (1) that actions are analysed in terms of the costs and benefits they produce to the actors and others affected, and (2) Alan Fiske’s theory, according to which human social relations could be classified into basic elementary forms. Using a variety of behavioural and neuroimaging techniques, we intend to investigate whether children infer the specific social relation that the intentional structure and the cost-benefit outcome of an observed interaction could reveal. More specifically, while resource transfer events (e.g., giving, taking) alter the distribution of goods among participants, they may also cue certain types of underlying relations that would ensure that all parties benefit, directly or indirectly, from the exchange on the long run (e.g., by reciprocity). We aim to establish whether drawing inferences to social relations enjoys the priority in the infant mind over attribution of social dispositions, whether infants predict the outcome of new, previously unobserved interactions, what information children use to choose partners for cooperative tasks, and how they track individuals across social contexts. This research will also provide a new perspective on the development of moral psychology by extending its domain from actions to social interactions.

Researchers in the project:

Publications related to the project:

  1. Tatone, D., Hernik, M., & Csibra, G. (2019). Minimal cues of possession transfer compel infants to ascribe the goal of giving. Open Mind, 2019, 31-40.
  2. Török, G., Pomiechowska, B., Csibra, G., & Sebanz, N. (2019). Rationality in joint action: Maximizing co-efficiency in coordination. Psychological Science, 30(6), 930-941.
  3. Mahr, J. & Csibra, G. (2020). Witnessing, remembering and testifying: Why the past is special for human beings. Perspectives on Psychological Sciene, 15(2), 428-443.
  4. Yin, J., Tatone, D., & Csibra, G. (2020). Giving, but not taking, actions are spontaneously represented as social interactions: Evidence from modulation of lower alpha oscillations. Neuropsychologia, 139(2), 107363.
  5. Schlingloff, L., Csibra, G., & Tatone, D. (2020). Do 15-month-old infants prefer helpers? A replication of Hamlin et al. (2007). Royal Society Open Science, 7: 191795.
  6. Török, G., Stanciu, O., Sebanz, N., & Csibra, G. (2020). Joint action planning: co-actors minimize the aggregate individual costs of actions. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 42, 295-301.
  7. Revencu, B. & Csibra, G. (2020). For 19-month-olds, what happens on the screen stays on the screen. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 42, 508-513.
  8. Pomiechowska, B. & Csibra, G. (2020). Ten-month-olds infer relative costs of different goal-directed actions. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 42, 391-396.
  9. Schlingloff, K., Tatone, D., Poiechowska, B., & Csibra, G. (2020). Do infants think that agents choose what’s best? Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 42, 1495-1501.
  10. Mahr, J., Mascaro, O., Mercier, H., & Csibra, G. (2021). The effect of disagreement on children’s source memory performance. PLOS One, 16(4): e0249958
  11. Mahr, J. B. & Csibra, G. (2021). The effect of source claims on statement believability and speaker accountability. Memory & Cognition, 49, 1505-1525.
  12. Török, G., Stanciu, O., Sebanz, N., & Csibra, G. (2021). Computing joint action costs: Co-actors minimize the aggregate individual costs in an action sequence. Open Mind, 5, 100-112.
  13. Revencu, B. & Csibra, G. (2021). For 19-month-olds, what happens on-screen stays on-screen. Open Mind, 5, 71-90.
  14. Tatone, D., Hernik, M., & Csibra, G. (2021). Facilitation of object encoding in infants by the observation of giving. Scientific Reports, 11, 18305.
  15. Yin, J., Csibra, G., & Tatone, D. (2022). Structural asymmetries in the representation of giving and taking events. Cognition, 229, 105248.
  16. Schlingloff-Nemecz, L. Stavans, M., & Csibra, G. (2022). CoCollectors: An iPad game for developmental research on action understanding, partner choice, and cooperative behavior. PsychArchives.
  17. Mascaro, O. & Csibra, G. (2022). Infants expect agents to minimize the collective cost of collaborative actions. Scientific Reports, 12:17088.
  18. Bas, J., Sebastian-Galles, N., Csibra, G., & Mascaro, O. (2023). Infants’ representation of asymmetric social influence. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 226, 105564.
  19. Tatone, D., Schlingloff-Nemecz, L., & Pomiechowska, B. (2023). Infants do not use payoff information to infer individual goals in joint-action events. Cognitive Development, 66, 101329.
  20. Mussavifard, N. & Csibra, G. (2023). The co-evolution of cooperation and communication: alternative accounts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 46, e11.
  21. Brody, G., Revencu, B., & Csibra, G. (in press). Images of objects are interpreted as symbols: A case study of automatic size measurement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 
  22. Schlingloff-Nemecz, L., Tatone, D., & Csibra, G. (in press). The representation of third-party helping interactions in infancy. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology.

See also the iPad game that we developed for this project.