Thin-slice perception develops slowly

TitleThin-slice perception develops slowly
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBalas, B., Kanwisher N., & Saxe R.
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Pagination257 - 264
Date Published06/2012

Body language and facial gesture provide sufficient visual information to support high-level social inferences from “thin slices” of behavior. Given short movies of non-verbal behavior, adults make reliable judgments in a large number of tasks. Here we find that the high precision of adult’s nonverbal social perception depends on the slow development, over childhood, of sensitivity to subtle visual cues. Children and adult participants watched short silent clips in which a target child played with Legos, either in the (off-screen) presence of an adult or alone. Participants judged whether the target was playing alone or not, that is, they detected the presence of a social interaction (from the behavior of one participant in that interaction). This task allowed us to compare performance across ages to the true answer. Children did not reach adult levels of performance on this task until age 9 or 10 years and we observed an interaction between age and video reversal. Adults and older children benefitted from the videos being played in temporal sequence, rather than reversed, suggesting that adults (but not young children) are sensitive to natural movement in social interactions.

Short TitleJournal of Experimental Child Psychology