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Chapter 3 endnote 11, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Infants who are four to eight months old, for example, can distinguish smiling faces from scowling faces. This ability, however, turned out not to be related to emotion per se. In those experiments, the posed faces for happiness showed teeth while those for anger did not, and that’s the cue that infants picked up on.

This phenomenon, called “toothiness,” was demonstrated in a study that started with three facial poses:[1]

  1. “toothy scowling”
  2. “non-toothy smiling”
  3. “non-toothy scowling”

The experimenters split the infants into three groups, and each was shown one of the three facial poses until the infants got used to it. Then they showed all three groups a toothy smile. If the infants were “detecting” emotion in the face, then the two “anger” groups (toothy and non-toothy scowling) should pay attention for longer to the new, toothy smile (compared to the non-toothy happiness group) because its “happiness” would be novel after seeing “anger.” But instead, the two non-toothy groups (anger and happiness) looked longer, indicating that they were attending to the teeth, not the emotional content. Very young infants can distinguish pleasant from unpleasant, but it’s easier to do in the voice than the face.[2]

Notes on the Notes

  1. Caron, Rose F., Albert J. Caron, and Rose S. Myers. 1985. “Do Infants See Emotional Expressions in Static Faces?” Child Development 56 (6): 1552–1560.
  2. Caron, Albert J., Rose F. Caron, and Darla J. MacLean. 1988. "Infant discrimination of naturalistic emotional expressions: The role of face and voice." Child Development 59 (3): 604-616.