At the moment, we are mainly interested in the social and emotional development in the first year of life. 


How does maternal odor influence emotion perception in infancy?

Parents are of crucial importance for the healthy development of a baby. Not only do they take care of a child’s physical needs, such as food and clean diapers, but they are also essential in caring for a child’s psychological needs, offering security, love, and protection. With this project, we want to investigate which role of maternal odor, or the mother’s scent, plays in this context. Is maternal odor alone sufficient to soothe a baby? Does the presence (or absence) of maternal odor impact how a baby reacts to other people? These are some of the questions we investigate primarily in infants between the age of 6 and 7 months.

Further details on the first results from this project can be found here:

Jessen, S. (2020). Maternal odor reduces the neural response to fearful faces in human infants. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 45, 100858.

Do infants infer character traits from facial features?

First impression matters: If adults encounter another person for the first time, they quickly form an opinion about that person. They might for instance judge a person as more or less trustworthy. Recent studies suggest that already preschoolers make similar judgments. In this project, we are interest in whether such judgments can also be observed in infancy. In addition, we are interested in what might contribute to such judgments and what the underlying neural mechanisms might be.

Publications related to this subproject:

Jessen, S. & Grossmann, T. (2019). Neural evidence for the impact of facial trustworthiness on object processing in a gaze-cueing task in 7-month-old infants. Social Neuroscience.

Jessen, S. & Grossmann, T. (2019). Neural evidence for the subliminal processing of facial trustworthiness in infancy. Neuropsychologia, 126, 46-53. (pdf)

Jessen,S. & Grossmann, T. (2016).  Neural and behavioral evidence for infants’ sensitivity to the trustworthiness of faces. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28(11), 1728-1736. (pdf)

How do infants learn to understand communicate signals?

The development of infant speech production and perception has long fascinated both parents and researchers. In our new project, we want to investigate the interplay between visual and auditory information, i.e. the face and the voice, in infant language acquisition.

In particular, we want to ask the following questions:

How do children process linguistic compared to non-linguistic communicative signals in the first year of life? And how is this processing dependent on the child’s own language development?

To investigate the neural mechanisms underlying these processes, we plan to combine functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) data with behavioral and questionnaire data. This project is run in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Nicole Altvater-Mackensen.