The left cradling bias: An evolutionary facilitator of social cognition?
Forrester, Gillian S.
Todd, Brenda K.
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Forrester, G.S., Davis, R., Mareschal, D., Malatesta, G. and Todd, B.K. (2019) 'The left cradling bias: An evolutionary facilitator of social cognition?', Cortex, 118(September), pp. 116-131.
A robust left side cradling bias (LCB) in humans is argued to reflect an evolutionarily old left visual field bias and right hemisphere dominance for processing social stimuli. A left visual field bias for face processing, invoked via the LCB, is known to reflect a human population-level right cerebral hemisphere specialization for processing social stimuli. We explored the relationship between cradling side biases, hand dominance and socio-communicative abilities. Four and five year old typically-developing children (N = 98) participated in a battery of manual motor tasks interspersed by cradling trials comprising a(n): infant human doll, infant primate doll, proto-face pillow and no-face pillow. Mean social and communication ability scores were obtained via a survey completed by each child's key teacher. We found a population-level LCB for holding an infant human doll that was not influenced by hand dominance, sex, age or experience of having a younger sibling. Children demonstrating a LCB, did however, obtain a significantly higher mean social ability score compared with their right side cradling counterparts. Like the infant human doll, the proto-face pillow's schematic face symbol was sufficient to elicit a population-level LCB. By contrast, the infant primate doll elicited a population-level right side cradling bias, influenced by both hand dominance and sex. The findings suggest that the LCB is present and visible early in development and is likely therefore, to represent evolutionarily old domain-specific organization and function of the right cerebral hemisphere. Additionally, results suggest that a LCB requires minimal triggering but can be reversed in some situations, possibly in response to species-type or levels of novelty or stress as perceived by the viewer. Patterns of behavioral biases within the context of social stimuli and their associations with cognitive ability are important for understanding how socio-communication abilities emerge in developing children.