Research Projects

 

Announcements:

I am currently designing a study to test moral intuitions in Animal Ethics. If you are a student interested in participating in this research please contact me at mdb037@shsu.edu

 

 

 

 

Gaia and Glitter

Gombe National Park

Picture Maria Botero©

 


 
 

 

Mother-Infant Interaction, Developmental Consequences

This study examines the effect of the mother’s touch on anxiety levels and social interactions in six infant chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Kasekela community at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. In the first phase, the duration of touch given by the mother to the infant was observed through the first year of life in six mother-infant pairs, using frame-by-frame analysis of videotaped interactions.   In the second phase, these same individuals are observed as adolescents. Their social interactions and anxiety behaviors, measured as rough scratching (RSS), are recorded. We are interested in the effect that the duration of the mother’s touch has on the infant’s social development.



 
 

 

 

 

 

Touch and the Social Mind

 

Since the 1970s researchers have focused on gaze as a way to observe and operationalize joint attention. Many of these studies attempt to provide an account of the stage of development at which the infant moves from imitation to true gaze-following and to determine whether this gazing ability denotes the presence of more complex cognitive abilities in the infant. Several researchers uses gaze to describe how early humans acquired joint attention capabilities and how this capability became the distinctive feature that differentiates humans and apes.  I will argue that, to provide a more gradual history of the evolution of the primate mind, we need to focus on a different mode of perception: touch. Moreover, I argue that touch is the ontogentically precurson of social cognition.