What Is Social Referencing?

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Social referencing is term that refers to the tendency of a person particularly an infant, to analyze the facial expressions of a significant other in order to be able to determine what to do. Social referencing often refers to children assessing the reactions of parents to obtain clarifying information about a particular situation.

In the majority of cases, the term social referencing describes moments when infants learn how to react to unfamiliar events, people or objects. The caregiver becomes the reference in these situations. Infants learn what is appropriate or safe by watching their caregivers and gradually learn how to behave in various situations.