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Sunday, June 18, 2017
The Study of Infant Awareness of Caregiver inauthencitity
ADOPTEE RAGE! STUDY: How the Infant Knows You Are Lying ________________________________________________________________
The Development of Infant Detection of Inauthentic Emotion
By Eric A. Walle & Joseph J. Campos
Appreciating authentic and inauthentic emotional communication is central to the formation of trusting and intimate interpersonal relationships. However, when infants are able to discriminate and respond to inauthentic emotion has not been investigated. The present set of studies was designed to investigate infant sensitivity to three specific cues of inauthenticity: the contextual congruency of the emotion, the degree of exaggeration of the emotion, and the clarity with which the emotion is communicated. In each experiment, 16- and 19-month-old infants were presented with an emotional communication in which an inauthentic cue was present or absent. Infant behavioral responding to the emotional context was observed and coded. In all three experiments, 19-month-old infants, but not 16-month-old infants, detected inauthentic emotional communication and differentially responded to the environment accordingly. These findings demonstrate that infants do not simply take all emotional communication at face value and are sensitive to features of emotional contexts beyond what is expressively communicated by the adult. Possible developmental mechanisms that may account for the observed developmental shift in infant emotional development are proposed, and implications for the present findings on future research in emotion and emotional development are highlighted.
Keywords: emotion, development, authenticity
Authenticity is an ideal we strive for in many Western-European and North American societies. We value the person who is sincere, who is straightforward, who is not manipulative, who strives to practice what he or she preaches, and, above all, is trustworthy. Lack of authenticity is usually considered socially undesirable and a mark of deviousness in social interaction. However, societies also sometimes encourage inauthenticity for the purpose of maintaining social harmony and smooth interpersonal interactions. For instance, we expect inappropriate emotions to be concealed (e.g., we are expected not to show disgust at a disfigured person, and the recipient of an undesirable gift is expected to show enthusiastic, but inauthentic, glee to the recipient). In many cases, societies prescribe the expression of emotions that are, in fact, the opposite of an individual’s true experience.
The study of authentic and inauthentic emotional communication is a central element for understanding social interactions. From a definitional perspective, we conceptualize inauthenticity as the display of an unfelt emotion or the deliberately manipulated manifestation of a felt one.1 In what follows, we highlight the importance of detecting inauthentic emotional communication for human development, review the existing empirical literature investigating authenticity, and describe a set of studies that investigate the development of infant detection of inauthentic emotion.
The Importance of Detecting Inauthentic Emotion
Authentic displays of emotion help provide the basis for reliable relationships in human interaction. Infant detection of authentic and inauthentic emotion displays is essential for helping to form positive, trusting relationships with others that will enable the infant to effectively navigate social contexts. Infants must be able to identify reliable individuals in the environment to reference for information, seek out when distressed, and from whom to learn social norms in order to develop into a competent social participant (see Saarni, Campos, Camras, & Witherington, 2006). After all, security comes not only from provision of havens of safety and secure bases of exploration (Bowlby, 1969), but also from the recognition by the child that the caregiver’s emotional signals are reliable and trustworthy, especially when the child encounters uncertainty. The child’s working model of attachment from past social and emotional experiences helps organize interpretation and understanding of future interactions (Bretherton, 1996), and differences in such experiences have been found to differentially affect infant emotional development (e.g., Murray, 1992; Raikes & Thompson, 2006; Spinrad et al., 2007). Investigating the development of infant detection of inauthentic emotion is essential for understanding the whole story of how different emotional environments affect infant emotional development.
Detection of Inauthentic Emotion in Childhood
Much of early socialization is characterized by learning what, where, and when to display certain types of behavior. This is often characterized by certain display rules that adults are able to utilize with great ease (Ekman & Friesen, 1975), but which young children have considerable difficulty. Children understand at 6-7 years of age the motivations for, and consequences of displaying an unfelt emotion (Gosselin, Warren, & Diotte, 2002; Harris, Donnelly, Guz, & Pitt-Watson, 1986), and can produce such displays at around 6 years of age (Halberstadt, Grotjohn, Johnson, Furth, & Greig, 1992), progressively improving during the elementary years into adulthood (Feldman, Jenkins, & Popoola, 1979). For example, Saarni (1984)found that 7-year-old children are able to spontaneously produce inauthentic smiles in response to receiving a boring toy. Of note is the child’s early understanding of a need to display unfelt emotions by 6 years of age (Halberstadt et al., 1992), even though the ability to convincingly produce such a display is lacking (Saarni, 1984). This suggests that detection of inauthenticity may precede inauthentic production.
A limitation of the above research is that it typically focuses on phenomena that are readily amenable to experimental manipulation and includes individuals who have a well-developed conceptual and symbolic level of mentation. Paradigms often use short stories read to the child, in which the child must identify a character’s internal state, determine how best for the character to behave, and how others will perceive the character. Though informative, research using school-aged children relies on paradigms demanding advanced cognitive and linguistic abilities to follow the plot of a story and verbalize a response. Infancy research calls for a different set of paradigms.
Detection of Inauthentic Emotion in Infancy
Infants are able to discern normative social interactions early in life. Extensive research by Tronick and colleagues has demonstrated infant sensitivity to situations in which social expectations are violated (e.g., Gusella, Muir, & Tronick, 1988; Tronick, Als, Adamson, Wise, & Brazelton, 1978; for reviews, see Adamson & Frick, 2003; Muir & Lee, 2003; Tronick, 2003). Furthermore, research by Walker-Andrews (1986) has found that infants are sensitive to the congruency of facial and vocal communication of emotion at 7 months of age, preferentially looking to a facial display of emotion that matches a vocalization of emotion. With these early capacities in mind, investigations of infant understanding of pretense and parent interactions may provide further insight into infant detection of inauthentic emotion. Infant understanding of pretense develops markedly between 15 and 24 months of age (see, Haight & Miller, 1992; McCune, 1995; Walker-Andrews & Kahana-Kalman, 1999). When engaging in pretend behaviors, mothers demonstrate increased smiling and looking toward their infant (Lillard & Witherington, 2004) and infants are able to correctly identify pretend and real behaviors at as young as 2.5 years of age (Ma & Lillard, 2006). These experiments relied on infant facial reactions or explicit identification of the discrepant events. However, it is essential to observe not only whether the infant notices discrepant displays of emotion, but also how noticing this discrepancy affects and regulates the child’s instrumental behavior toward the emoting individual or the referent of the emotion. Highlighting this point is the research by Ma and Lillard (2006), who found that although 2-year-old infants did not explicitly differentiate pretend and real eating behaviors, these infants exhibited more spontaneous swallowing and lip licking while viewing the real eating behavior. This suggests that infants may demonstrate detection of pretense when functional behavioral responses are analyzed.
Anecdotal and empirical reports in which infants did not behave as one would expect in response to adult emotion motivated the present investigation. For example, 18-month-old infants occasionally respond to adult emotions with opposite behavioral responses than would be predicted, such as laughing at a parent’s display of fear (M. D. Klinnert, personal communication, July 2007) or smiling at parental distress (Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, & Chapman, 1992). These peculiar responses are often dismissed as indicating that infants did not understand the emotion. We offer a different interpretation: these responses may have occurred because infants did not believe the sincerity of emotional the communication. Thus, it is possible that the ability to detect and respond to inauthentic emotion may develop around 18 months of age.
The Present Set of Studies
Our review of the literature demonstrates that research investigating the detection of inauthentic emotional communication has largely been done with adults, and what developmental research does exist has used preschool and school-aged children. Furthermore, existing developmental research has failed to investigate the ontogeny of how infant detection of such discrepancies regulates infant social behavior. Although the importance for accurately appreciating the authenticity of emotional communication is clear, a distinct gap in the literature exists in our understanding of how this important skill develops. In light of the existing developmental literature indicating that 18-month-old infants occasionally respond with unexpected behaviors to emotional communication, as well as emerging understanding of pretense at this age, the following research compared 16- and 19-month-old infants ability to detect inauthentic emotional communication.
Review of the adult literature has identified potential cues of, and strategies for, detecting inauthentic emotion displays. Three factors that differentiate an authentic from an inauthentic emotional display are: (1) the authentic display is contextually appropriate—one that fits the circumstances the perceiver of the display is encountering; (2) the authentic display is of the right intensity for the level of emotion called for under the circumstances—intense when the danger is intense, weak when the danger is weak, and intermediate when the threat is middling; and (3) the authentic display is conveyed unambiguously, without confound by a prior, simultaneous, or subsequent signal that “leaks” an alternative emotional message. A unique sample of infants were tested in three distinct paradigms in which one of the above cues was experimentally manipulated. Each paradigm was specifically designed so that an infant age group that detected the inauthentic emotion would demonstrate differential behavioral responding between emotion conditions. Thus, our paradigms are similar to those used in discriminatory behavior tasks (e.g.. discriminatory looking), in which infants either do or do not differ in behavior between targets. Age differences are determined by which age groups demonstrate the discriminatory behavior (not if one age group discriminates “more” than another). As a result, performance for each age group is essentially dichotomous (significant discrimination between conditions: yes or no); not to what degree discrimination exists. To emphasize, it was the differential behavioral responding between conditions within each age group, not “improvement” between age groups, which was of central interest to each study. As such, planned comparisons are used in each study to test our a priori hypotheses.
Infant Sensitivity to Emotions in Context
The importance of utilizing contextual information to accurately appreciate and respond to emotional communication may be illustrated by the following example. While visiting a zoo an infant may identify her father’s display as fear (affect specificity) in response to a charging polar bear (referential specificity), but also notice that a secure Plexiglas barrier is present to prevent harm, and consequently smile and approach the glass to examine the animal. Thus, the infant has demonstrated a behavioral response opposite to the emotional communication concerning the danger of the referent, but sensitive to the context within which this information is provided. Such a response would indicate that the infant used cues other than emotional and referential communication, such as the significance of the emotion in the present context. Previous developmental research suggests that young children more accurately identify emotions based on situational causes and consequences. Although the existing literature investigating infant use of contextual versus expressive cues has primarily used static images of facial displays or vignettes, prior studies have not manipulated the relation between the emotion and the contextually relevant features of the environment within which the infant is actively participating.
Some evidence does hint that infants may be sensitive to contextual cues of emotion. A peculiar finding from Carolyn Zahn-Waxler and colleagues’ research investigating infant prosocial responding to distressed individuals provides one such instance. In this classic paradigm, the infant observes a caregiver or researcher hurt herself and express pain. Infant’s behavioral responding is then observed to determine whether the infant appreciated the other’s distress by responding with concern and prosocial action. This research has found that infants at 14 months of age respond to a distressed individual with concern and prosocial behaviors, and that these behaviors become more prevalent and specific to the individual’s distress during the second year of life (Zahn-Waxler et al., 1992). However, of particular interest is a finding reported in the same study that 14- and 19-month-old infants were as likely to respond to adult distress with “empathic concern” as they were with “positive affect.” These responses of positive affect may signify that infants picked up on other features of the environment beyond the surface level features of the distress display. Thus, rather than failing the task, these infants may have actually exceeded the task by recognizing that the distress was simulated and appreciated the emotion as playful. The specific cue(s) the infants may have used to reach this conclusion remains unknown.3
Aims of Study 1
Study 1 examined whether 16- and 19-month-old infants are sensitive to the contextual congruency of an emotion, specifically parental distress, when cues in the environment provide evidence that the emotional display is not credible. This study utilized a variant of the classic Zahn-Waxler paradigm that was designed to measure infant responding to others’ distress. In our variation, infants observed their parent either perceptibly hit or miss her hand with a toy hammer. In both conditions parents displayed pain and distress following the hammer strike, and infant behavioral responding to parents’ distress was coded. It was hypothesized that infants would demonstrate more prosocial responses and expressions of concern after witnessing the parent hit her hand with the hammer, whereas infants witnessing the parent miss her hand with the hammer would display more positive affect and aggressive/playful behaviors toward the parent. Additionally, it was hypothesized that 19-month-old infants would demonstrate greater differential responding as a function of the perceived authenticity of the emotion display than 16-month-old infants.