the smile- reply to french fries from another thread
I didn;t want to keep hijacking a thread back in the food section so i'll reply here to French Fries' question.
this was the question- we were discussing if the human smile is learned or innate and i had said that humans are born with the innate tendency to smile at a human face, which emerges from some weeks to months after birth and that the caretakers will smile back.
Originally Posted by French Fries
But isn't that a form of teaching? They notice that faces looking at them are smiling and rather playful and non-threatening, so they associate the facial expression with the feeling?
The question is: if you had a baby raised in an environment where nobody ever ever smiled, would he end up smiling? If a baby was raised in a hospital room where no one could visit him, would he end up naturally smiling to express happiness after a few months, even though he's never even seen someone else smile before?
Thanks for your feedback Siduri, that's a fascinating topic for someone raising a child. Probably a fascinating field for you to work in.
Back in the 1800s when contagion was understood but there were no vaccines or antibiotics, babies in orphanages were cared for only physically, and interaction was kept at a minimum, with masks and gowns to prevent massive epidemics within the institutions. The babies frequently died of unknown causes, which they called marasma, lack of human connection and attachment. The babies would just refuse to eat and would die. In any case they grew up severely deprived and with serious problems connecting with others.
So to answer your question, the baby would smile at the caretaker but if the caretaker repeatedly didn;t smile, the baby would at first try more to engage the face, then would just withdraw in frustration. Many people now study babies with detailed filming of interaction and we've learned a lot from this. A couple of months of steady interaction with a seriously depressed person who is incapable of responding, and the baby will show all the physiological and psychological symptoms of depression - no genes required! It can be reversed with good relatedness.
If the caretaker responds to a smile with a still face, the baby will try to engage it even harder, maybe becoming even more appealing, more open smile, waving arms and legs - if the caretaker doesn't respond the baby will cry. Caretakers who habitually don't respond, make the baby stop smiling, and they can permanently lose their motivation to smile even with others - it's just too frustrating. It begins as an instinct, but environment always has a role in any innate biological characteristic.
A baby raised in a hospital room with no human contact would have no happiness to express. It's not only smiles but responsiveness that counts - the response to the baby's signals gives him a sense of agency, of cause and effect, of other people like him outside. If the baby cries and we pick him up, he gets a sense of communication - it's worth trying to communicate. Same with a smile being returned. Then smile goes from instinctive to intentional and communicative.
Babies need to be held and they have an innate predisposition to be soothed if they're rocked at the rate of about 60 rocks per minute - a normal human walking speed. No wonder women of all cultures had ways to carry infants on their body - they cried less! The interesting thing is they are soothed even when they're put down. An hour of rocking and you can have dinner in peace! We're born to relate and to attach.
Also interesting, a baby copies a human face almost at birth - stick out your tongue and he will copy - he knows he has a face and a tongue! amazing how much they know. Motorially they can;t do it all, but they recognize a face as being like theirs, or they wouldn't know to copy it. .