Maternal sensitivity has been considered an indicator of mother-infant quality interaction, however little is known about the perception processes associated to this parental behavior style. Here we aimed to explore the relationship between maternal sensitivity during a face-to-face interaction with their infants and maternal ability in perceiving infants' body and face. Thirty-six 6 month-old infants and their mothers were videotaped during a mother-infant interaction to identify those with high and low sensitivity. Then, mothers were tested using an inversion effect paradigm requiring the visual discrimination of upright and inverted pictures of whole bodies and faces of their own and unfamiliar infants; this allowed estimation of their configural perceptual processing abilities. Results showed that high-sensitivity mothers showed reduced body configural processing for others' infants as compared to configural processing of their own infant, whereas low-sensitivity mothers were engaged in comparable body configural processing independently from infant identity. Infants' face configural processing did not distinguish between high- and low-sensitivity mothers. Our findings suggest that high-sensitivity mothers have refined their use of configural processing of body postures to be selective for their own infants, suggesting that this visuo-perceptual strategy makes much more efficient the mothers' ability in detecting, discriminating and recognizing own infant's cues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology