The perception of actions and interactions: And the importance of context

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Sal IV, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Juvrud, Joshua
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Institutionen för psykologi
  • Kontaktperson: Juvrud, Joshua
  • Disputation

The present thesis took a developmental and individual differences approach to understanding action perception and processing in infancy. The overarching aim was to understand the development of action perception and how individual differences contribute to the perception and processing of actions.

The perception of actions and interactions is a dynamic process linked with perceptual processes, the internal and external states of the individual, prior experiences, and the immediate environment. Given these differential contexts, it is very likely there are differences in how infants perceive, interpret, and respond to actions. The present thesis took a developmental and individual differences approach to understanding action perception and processing in infancy. The overarching aim was to understand the development of action perception and how individual differences contribute to the perception and processing of actions. More specifically, individual differences included the capacity to which variations in a child’s context can affect the development of action perception. Study I demonstrated that, like adults, infants could differentiate between physically possible and physically impossible apparent motion paths, as evidenced by pupil dilation. This perception may be related to the context of whether the motion was performed by a human figure or an object. Study II found that in the context of a more complex social interaction, infants differentiated between appropriate and inappropriate responses to a giving action. Furthermore, infants’ individual differences in perceiving a giving action were related to their own giving behaviors later in childhood, suggesting possible specialized mechanisms. Study III took an integrative perspective on context and demonstrated the joint impact of internal and external emotional contexts for infants’ subsequent selective attention during visual search. Infants’ visual attention was affected by previous exposure to a facial emotion and by the mothers’ negative affect. The results of these three studies demonstrate that given differential environmental contexts and experiences, there are differences in how individuals perceive and interpret actions and interactions. Together, this thesis proposes an integrative role of context in perception and demonstrates that perception can never be truly decontextualized.