Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pacifiers may have emotional consequences for boys

19.09.2012
Pacifiers may stunt the emotional development of baby boys by robbing them of the opportunity to try on facial expressions during infancy.

Three experiments by a team of researchers led by psychologists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison tie heavy pacifier use as a young child to poor results on various measures of emotional maturity.

The study, published today by the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, is the first to associate pacifiers with psychological consequences. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics already call for limiting pacifier use to promote breast-feeding and because of connections to ear infections or dental abnormalities.

Humans of all ages often mimic — unwittingly or otherwise — the expressions and body language of the people around them.

"By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself," says Paula Niedenthal, UW–Madison psychology professor and lead author of the study. "That's one of the ways we understand what someone is feeling — especially if they seem angry, but they're saying they're not; or they're smiling, but the context isn't right for happiness."

Mimicry can be an important learning tool for babies.

"We can talk to infants, but at least initially they aren't going to understand what the words mean," Niedenthal says. "So the way we communicate with infants at first is by using the tone of our voice and our facial expressions."

With a pacifier in their mouth, a baby is less able to mirror those expressions and the emotions they represent.

The effect is similar to that seen in studies of patients receiving injections of Botox to paralyze facial muscles and reduce wrinkles. Botox users experience a narrower range of emotions and often have trouble identifying the emotions behind expressions on other faces.

"That work got us thinking about critical periods of emotional development, like infancy," says Niedenthal, whose work is supported by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche. "What if you always had something in your mouth that prevented you from mimicking and resonating with the facial expression of somebody?"

The researchers found six- and seven-year-old boys who spent more time with pacifiers in their mouths as young children were less likely to mimic the emotional expressions of faces peering out from a video.

College-aged men who reported (by their own recollections or their parents') more pacifier use as kids scored lower than their peers on common tests of perspective-taking, a component of empathy.

A group of college students took a standard test of emotional intelligence measuring the way they make decisions based on assessing the moods of other people. Among the men in the group, heavier pacifier use went hand-in-hand with lower scores.

"What's impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data," Niedenthal says. "There's no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there's a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development."

Girls develop earlier in many ways, according to Niedenthal, and it is possible that they make sufficient progress in emotional development before or despite pacifier use. It may be that boys are simply more vulnerable than girls, and disrupting their use of facial mimicry is just more detrimental for them.

"It could be that parents are inadvertently compensating for girls using the pacifier, because they want their girls to be emotionally sophisticated. Because that's a girly thing," Niedenthal says. "Since girls are not expected to be unemotional, they're stimulated in other ways. But because boys are desired to be unemotional, when you plug them up with a pacifier, you don't do anything to compensate and help them learn about emotions."

Suggesting such a simple and common act has lasting and serious consequences is far from popular.

"Parents hate to have this discussion," Niedenthal says. "They take the results very personally. Now, these are suggestive results, and they should be taken seriously. But more work needs to be done."

Sussing out just why girls seem to be immune (or how they may compensate) is an important next step, as is an investigation of what Niedenthal calls "dose response."

"Probably not all pacifier use is bad at all times, so how much is bad and when?" she asks. "We already know from this work that nighttime pacifier use doesn't make a difference, presumably because that isn't a time when babies are observing and mimicking our facial expressions anyway. It's not learning time."

But even with more research planned to further explain the new results, Niedenthal is comfortable telling parents to consider occasionally pocketing the pacifier.

"I'd just be aware of inhibiting any of the body's emotional representational systems," Niedenthal says. "Since a baby is not yet verbal — and so much is regulated by facial expression — at least you want parents to be aware of that using something like a pacifier limits their baby's ability to understand and explore emotions. And boys appear to suffer from that limitation."

— Chris Barncard, 608-890-0465, barncard@wisc.edu

Paula Niedenthal | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>