Facial configurations in newborns

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Chapter 1 endnote 12, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Camras and Oster found, using FACS, that the range of babies’ facial movements in the two situations was indistinguishable.

Newborns don't show the adult-like facial configurations that have been designated as emotional expressions. Nor do older infants in the first year of life.[1] An infant might pout before crying, but this does not necessarily express sadness. An infant might wrinkle her nose at a smell or a taste, but this does not necessarily express disgust. Developmental psychologist and emotion expert Linda Camras has shown that infants make combinations of facial movements seen in the stereotyped expression for surprise, but there is a physical reason for this (they raise their brows when their mouth is already open); scientists can be sure that infants are not surprised when they make this face because nothing novel or unexpected is happening.[2][3][4]

Even though newborns don’t show differentiated, adult-like expressions that resemble the photographs from the basic emotion method, this observation, on its own, is not a nail in the coffin for the classical view of emotion. The genetic program and/or wiring for emotional expressions could still be innate, but might require some developmental maturation or learning before it manifests. These ideas, while not inconsistent with the classical view, would nonetheless require its revision.

Infant facial movements do indicate the intensity of distress, much like infant cries do.[5][6]

See also

Notes on the Notes

  1. Harriet Oster, personal communication, February 22, 2013.
  2. Michel, George F., Linda A. Camras, and Jean Sullivan. 1992. "Infant interest expressions as coordinative motor structures." Infant Behavior and Development 15 (3): 347-358.
  3. Camas et al. 2017. "Spontaneously produced facial expressions in infants and children." In The Science of Facial Expression, edited by Jose-Miguel Fernandez Dols & James A. Russell, 279-296. New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. Camras, Linda A., Serah S. Fatani, Brittney R. Fraumeni, and Michael M. Shuster. 2016. "The development of facial expressions: Current perspectives on infant emotions." In Handbook of Emotions, 4th edition, edited by Lisa Feldman Barrett, Michael Lewis, and Jeannette M. Haviland-Jones, 255-271. New York: Guilford Press.
  5. Dinehart, Laura H. Bolzani and others. 2005. "Adult Perceptions of Positive and Negative Infant Emotional Expressions." Infancy 8 (3): 279-303.
  6. Messinger, Daniel S.  2002. "Positive and negative: Infant facial expressions and emotions." Current Directions in Psychological Science 11 (1): 1-6.
  7. Camras, Linda A., and Jennifer M. Shutter. 2010. "Emotional facial expressions in infancy." Emotion Review 2 (2): 120-129.
  8. Oster, Harriet. 2005. "The repertoire of infant facial expressions: An ontogenetic perspective." In Emotional Development: Recent Research Advances, edited by Jacqueline Nadel and Darwin Muir, 261–292. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Oster, Harriet, Douglas Hegley, and Linda Nagel. 1992. "Adult judgments and fine-grained analysis of infant facial expressions: Testing the validity of a priori coding formulas." Developmental Psychology 28 (6): 1115-1131.
  10. Kohut, Sara Ahola, Rebecca Pillai Riddell, David B. Flora, and Harriet Oster. 2012. "A longitudinal analysis of the development of infant facial expressions in response to acute pain: Immediate and regulatory expressions." PAIN 153 (12): 2458-2465.