Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Babies Know When You're Faking

By Staff Reporter / Oct 23, 2013 12:16 PM EDT
  • Babies Know When You're Faking
  • (Photo : Flickr) One-on-one conversations with babies improve their language skills, a latest study states.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! That's easy enough for children to figure out because the emotion matches the movement. But when feelings and reactions don't align, can kids tell there's something wrong? New research from Concordia University proves that they can - as early as 18 months.

Like Us on Facebook

In a study recently published in Infancy: The Official Journal of the International Society on Infant Studies, psychology researchers Sabrina Chiarella and Diane Poulin-Dubois demonstrate that infants can detect whether a person's emotions are justifiable given a particular context. They prove that babies understand how the meaning of an experience is directly linked to the expressions that follow.

The implications are significant, especially for caregivers. "Our research shows that babies cannot be fooled into believing something that causes pain results in pleasure. Adults often try to shield infants from distress by putting on a happy face following a negative experience. But babies know the truth: as early as 18 months, they can implicitly understand which emotions go with which events," says psychology professor Poulin-Dubois.

To perform the research, she and PhD candidate Sabrina Chiarella recruited 92 infants at the 15 and 18-month mark. In a lab setting, the babies watched as an actor went through several scenarios in which emotional reactions went with or against pantomimed experiences (for more, see the related video). In one scenario, the researcher showed a mismatched emotion by being sad when presented with a desired toy. In another, she expressed an emotion that went with the experience by reacting in pain when pretending to hurt her finger.

At 15 months, the infants did not show a significant difference in reactions to these events, showing empathy through their facial expressions to all sad faces. This indicates that the understanding of the link between a facial expression following an emotional experience is an ability that has yet to develop at that stage.

At 18 months, however, the infants clearly detected when facial expressions did not match the experience. They spent more time looking at the researcher's face and checked back more frequently with the caregiver in the room with them so that they could gauge the reaction of a trusted source. They also showed empathy toward the person only when her sad face was justified; that is, only when the researcher was sad or in pain when she was supposed to be.

Chiarella explains that the indiscriminate show of concern to sad faces in the younger infants is an adaptive behaviour. "The ability to detect sadness and then react immediately has an evolutionary implication. However, to function effectively in the social world, children need to develop the ability to understand others' behaviours by inferring what is going on internally for those around them."

The researchers are currently examining whether infants who are exposed to an individual who is emotionally unreliable will affect in their willingness to help or learn from that individual.


Provided by Concordia University
Featured Video : Dr. Ashley Norris on whether parents should help with homework or let the kids complete it alon

Too many chefs: Smaller groups exhibit more accurate decision-making

The trope that the likelihood of an accurate group decision increases with the abundance of brains involved might not hold up when a collective faces a variety of factors - as often happens in life and nature. Instead, Princeton University researchers report that smaller groups actually tend to make more accurate decisions while larger assemblies may become excessively focused on only certain pieces of information.

Read More »

Novel compound halts cocaine addiction and relapse behaviors

A novel compound that targets an important brain receptor has a dramatic effect against a host of cocaine addiction behaviors, including relapse behavior, a University at Buffalo animal study has found.

Read More »

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

Students not threatened by bad consequences of failing perform better on tests

Read More »

Regulating legal marijuana could be guided by lessons from alcohol and tobacco, study says

As U.S. policymakers consider ways to ease prohibitions on marijuana, the public health approaches used to regulate alcohol and tobacco over the past century may provide valuable lessons, according to new RAND Corporation research.

Read More »

Sleeping positions reflect couples' relationship status: study

Sleeping positions may reflect a couple's relationship status, according to a new U.K. study.

Read More »

Reduce wrinkles with exercise, study suggests

It's hardly news that exercise is great for your health, but it may reverse skin aging in people who start a workout regimen later in life, a surprising new study finds.

Read More »

'Juno' protein key to fertility

The "Juno" protein is a recent breakthrough discovery that may hold the key to fertility treatments, according to researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Read More »

Husband kills wife due to marijuana-induced hallucinations

A man from Denver experiencing marijuana-induced hallucinations shot his wife to death while she was on the phone with police Monday, according to reports.

Read More »

Casual marijuana use linked to brain abnormalities

Casual marijuana use may be linked to brain abnormalities associated with emotion and motivation, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Read More »

J.K. Rowling sues Daily Mail for libel over 'sob story'

J.K. Rowling is suing the Daily Mail for libel after the website claimed the author wrote a misleading "sob story" in which she said she was taunted by churchgoers for being a single mother.

Read More »

11-year-old who lost ear to a raccoon as a baby to receive one grown on forearm

A raccoon attack mutilated Charlotte Ponce's face - leaving her with no nose or ear - when she was just three months old. Now, at age 11 and several surgeries later, she will receive a new ear.

Read More »

Beyoncé and Jay Z tour rumors circulate

Beyoncé and Jay Z are reportedly launching a 20-date nationwide tour.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics