Using an Animal Model to Explore the Prenatal Origins of Social Development

  • Robert LickliterEmail author
  • Lorraine E. Bahrick


Prenatal experience is both a formative and regulatory force in the process of development. As a result, birth is not an adequate starting point for explanations of behavioral development. However, little is currently known regarding the role of prenatal experience in the emergence and development of neonatal social orienting, social motivation, or social learning. Our lack of knowledge in this area is due in part to the very restricted experimental manipulations possible with human fetuses. A comparative approach utilizing animal models provides an essential step in addressing this gap in our knowledge of the development of social responsiveness and providing testable predictions for studies with human fetuses and infants. In this chapter we review animal-based research exploring how aspects of prenatal experience can facilitate the development of postnatal social motivation, social recognition, and social learning. We conclude that infant social responsiveness has its roots in prenatal development and that intersensory redundancy present in the prenatal environment promotes the salience of social stimuli during early postnatal development.


Prenatal learning Intersensory redundancy Origins of social development Behavioral embryology Selective attention 



The writing of this chapter was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant BCS 1057898 to R. Lickliter and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants K02 HD064943 and RO1 HD053776 to L. E. Bahrick.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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