In primates, including humans, mothers engage in face-to-face interactions with their infants, with frequencies varying both within and across species. However, the impact of this variation in face-to-face interactions on infant social development is unclear. Here we report that infant monkeys (Macaca mulatta) who engaged in more neonatal face-to-face interactions with mothers have increased social interactions at 2 and 5 months. In a controlled experiment, we show that this effect is not due to physical contact alone: monkeys randomly assigned to receive additional neonatal face-to-face interactions (mutual gaze and intermittent lip-smacking) with human caregivers display increased social interest at 2 months, compared with monkeys who received only additional handling. These studies suggest that face-to-face interactions from birth promote young primate social interest and competency.
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