There might be something beneath the innocent appearance, as researchers discover that babies smile to get a smile back, which shows a type of manipulation of their mothers to maintain a positive attitude toward them. Whether it’s on purpose or not, though, it’s hard to tell.
- Researchers studied 13 pairs of mothers and their babies
- 11 out of 13 babies showed signs of deliberate smiling
- They developed a baby robot, Diego San, to test their hypothesis
- The study has shown that mothers strive for mutual smiling, while babies just want to be smiled at
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have conducted a study in order to better understand the patterns of smiling in mother-to-newborn interactions. And according to one of the research scientists, Javier Movellan, “they’re not just smiling randomly”, and may have a deeper purpose behind the jovial expression.
They studied 13 mothers and their babies of under 4 months old, and observed their interactions to prove their hypothesis that babies do trick their mothers to smile on command, a training of sort to obtain maximized results while doing as little as possible. For example, they studied how often they both smiles, neither smiled, just the baby smiled or just when the mother smiled.
After analyzing the data, 11 out of the 13 babies showed clear signs of intentional smiling. While mothers wanted to maximize the time they were both smiling, the babies more often smiled as a way to get their mothers to smile back. In essence, they wanted to be smiled at more than mutual smiling.
The data was taken further into developing a slightly creepy-looking baby robot that mimicked the process to gauge the reactions of others and note if their timing was accurate. It took years of development and funding from the National Science Foundation in order to create Diego San, the robotic infant that tested if their human counterparts could manipulate their mothers into smiling.
Researchers studied the reactions of 32 subjects when faced with the robotic baby, by smiling and testing if they would receive the same response. They found indeed that babies show “sophisticated timing behavior” that maximizes the time period they’re being smiled at with as little effort as possible.
However, researchers were clear to state that they could not prove that this was deliberately made or that there is some cognitive mechanism that prompts them to attempt this type of behavior. In fact, such a thing would be incredibly difficult to prove for some at such a fragile age.
On the other hand, it does show some interesting signs of social behavior from babies, and how they attempt to control or manipulate the interactions they see from their mothers.
Image source: zastavki.com