A descriptive analysis of infant social referencing.

R. Hornik, M. R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


The study was designed to provide a descriptive analysis of the frequency and patterning of social referencing in a seminaturalistic setting. 32 infants, half of them 12 and half 18 months old, were observed exploring a caged rabbit with their mothers present. Referencing was operationalized as looks directed toward the mother following a look to the rabbit, accompanied by quizzical facial or vocal expressions. As a function of initial reaction to the rabbit, the infants were classified as wary or bold. Wary infants were more likely to reference their mothers when the rabbit was first presented; however, as the exploration period progressed, bold and wary infants referenced equally often. Referencing occurred less often than affective sharing; it increased in frequency when the mother was instructed to actively offer information and the infant no longer needed to solicit information by looking at her. Mothers directed both affective and instrumental information to their infants, providing affective information through facial expressions and tone of voice, and emphasizing instrumental information in the semantic content of their vocalizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-634
Number of pages9
JournalChild development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1988


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