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Processing Social and Non-Social Rewards in the Peer Context: The Role of Temperament

Sat, March 23, 9:45 to 11:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Level 3, Room 321

Integrative Statement

From early life, humans are biased to attend to social stimuli over non-social stimuli (Grossmann, 2015; Grossmann & Johnson, 2007). However, individual differences may influence the salience of social rewards (Chakrabarti, et al, 2017). Indeed, socially anxious individuals exhibit reduced neural activation when anticipating social reward (Richey et al., 2014). Importantly, studies assessing attention to social versus non-social reward are typically conducted using static stimuli. However, evidence suggests that real time social feedback differentially influences attention allocation (Anderson, 2016), suggesting the importance of investigating how attention to social and non-social rewards may vary across real-life social interactions. Furthermore, Behaviorally Inhibited (BI) children experience greater difficulty engaging in social interactions than their Non-Behaviorally Inhibited (BN) peers (Jarcho & Guyer, in press), which may further influence attentional deployment during peer interactions. The current study takes a naturalistic approach to examine how temperamental variation impacts attention to social and non-social rewards in the peer context. We anticipate that BI children will attend less to social rewards than BN children and that this tendency may be influenced by the affective tone of the dyadic interaction.

To-date, 34 dyads (68 children; Mage = 6.10 SDage = 0.59) have participated in a larger study designed to assess relations between temperament and attention to the social environment. Prior to participation, children were oversampled for BI. Dyads (matched on sex and age) are comprised of one BI and one BN child and complete a five-minute free play while mobile eye-tracking data are collected. To-date, mobile eye-tracking data have been coded to assess attention to social (peer) versus non-social (toy) reward for 10 children (5 dyads). Data were coded for each child at 30-frames-per-second for dwell time to peer face, peer body and toys. Dwell times were divided by total codable time to obtain proportions of time looking at each variable of interest. Additionally, event-based coding of affect and social behaviors has been completed for 8 children (4 dyads) to assess the tone of each dyadic interaction. Data were coded for each child for time spent engaging in social (discussion about topics other than play) versus non-social (discussion about ongoing play) conversation. Conversation times were divided by total codable time to obtain proportions of time engaging in each type of conversation. Data collection and processing is ongoing.

Table 1 displays Spearman correlations for the study variables. Results suggest that BI children spend less time looking at their peer and engaging in social conversation than do BN children. However, no relations exist between temperament and time looking at toys and engaging in play conversation. Figure 2 visualizes group differences in social versus non-social behaviors.

The current findings suggest that BI children may spend less time engaging with social reward than their BN peers. With a larger sample, we will use multi-level models to assess if temperament and interaction quality relate to attention to social versus non-social reward in the peer context. Multi-level models will enable us to control for dyad membership, allowing us to better assess attention-affect-temperament relations.


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