The Development of Social Engagement: Neurobiological Perspectives

The Development of Social Engagement: Neurobiological Perspectives

The Development of Social Engagement: Neurobiological Perspectives

The Development of Social Engagement: Neurobiological Perspectives

Synopsis

The Development of Social Engagement, edited by Peter J. Marshall and Nathan A. Fox, brings together some of the latest research on social engagement processes across a range of life stages and species. The opening chapters provide overviews of cutting-edge research on social engagement in areas such as temperament, face processing, joint attention, language development, and early social cognition in humans. Subsequent chapters address questions related to biological determinants of social systems, play, and maternal behavior across a variety of species, as well as evolutionary issues associated with social engagement. Finally, a number of chapters examine the application of rigorous biologically focused research paradigms to the study of atypical social engagement in children. Atypical social engagement is framed in terms of disorders such as autism and Williams Syndrome, as well as in the effects of adverse early rearing environments such as institutions. This volume will be a valuable guide for those interested in a neurobiological approach to the study of social development. It provides an introduction to current research directions in this rapidly expanding field for both student and professional researchers in developmental psychology, comparative psychology, and developmental psychopathology.

Excerpt

We have assembled a diversity of leading researchers to present findings related to social engagement across a range of contexts, domains, and species. In this sense, we feel that the volume gives a taste of contemporary work on social engagement across a variety of levels of analysis.

In the opening chapter, we introduce some of the themes that run throughout the volume, including an attempt to define early social engagement in terms of its subcomponents, and an overview of some current biological approaches to the study of social engagement in infants and young children. Some of the re- maining chapters pursue similar themes, while others take different directions. In chapter 2, Polak-Toste and Gunnar provide a thorough introduction to approach-related behavior as an important but understudied component of tem- perament that reflects developing processes of social engagement. The follow- ing series of chapters is then devoted to cognitive capacities associated with the development of social engagement, including face processing (de Haan & Groen), joint attention (Mundy & Acra), language development (Pruden, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff), and social cognition (Sabbagh). The third section of the volume takes a different perspective, aiming to provide a description of selected current work on social engagement processes across a variety of mammalian species. The chapters in this section concern the neurobiology of social bonds (Lim & Young), the neurobiology of maternal behavior (Lévy & Fleming), and specific aspects of play (Pellis & Pellis). While the emphasis on development may be more muted in parts of these chapters, they provide a fascinating window on current comparative work on social engagement processes in both juveniles and adults, with a particular focus on neurochemical mechanisms. Following this series of chapters, Keller and Chasiotis provide a consideration of evolutionary perspectives in social engagement. The final three chapters of the volume cover deviations in the development of social engagement. Two developmental disor-

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