Reading an Infant's Expressions

Delivery Method: 

Feelings can come or go with explosive suddenness, or they may gradually fade in or out. The experience of a feeling may be only momentary, or last for some time. These powerful inner sensations are invisible events. Unlike older children and adults, infants are not yet able to verbally communicate their inner feelings. Often, the most immediate clues about how an infant is feeling can be found by “reading” the infant’s expression. As early as two-months of age, infants relate to others during intimate face-to-face interactions by engaging in social smiling and gazing.

In this Videative, we see how certain sounds evoke different emotional reactions from John, a four-month-old infant. Initially, John’s face is open and receptive to his caregiver. He holds her gaze and smiles. Watch how John responds to the sound of his caregiver’s kisses with mixed emotions. His smile fades. John appears unsure about whether to look at his caregiver’s eyes or mouth as his gaze shifts between the two. His eyebrows fluctuate and the familiar tension we all recognize as a signal that an infant is about to cry emerges.

For many infants, a caregiver’s exaggerated kisses might bring about a feeling of joy and an expression of delight. By understanding what an individual infant might be feeling, we can become more responsive caregivers. We will be better able to anticipate what types of sounds will cause the infant to experience positive or negative emotions and provide appropriate support.

Keywords: Infants, Body, Child-Teacher, Communication, Gestures, Mind of Other, videative

Length of videative: 8 paragraphs, 6 video subclips

Length of stand-alone master video clip: 1 minute, 44 seconds