The Loh Down On Science

Plugged In

Big boys don’t cry. Unless they overused their pacifier as babies.
 
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
 
Pacifiers--AKA binkies--have long been controversial, but they do seem to keep babies happy. Still, a new study shows that too much binky use may hinder emotional growth.
 
See, babies learn to socialize partly by mimicking people’s faces in a process called, well, facial mimicry. Researchers wondered if the binky makes baby socialization tougher. Why? It's harder to move your face with a plug in your mouth!
 
To find out, they surveyed parents about their kids' binky use. Meanwhile, the kids were recorded trying to mimic facial expressions seen on a video. Later, the team asked college students about their binky history, as well as their capacity for empathy.
 
In the end? Kids with more binky use were indeed worse at facial mimicry. And, ex-binky-obsessed college students were rated as less empathic. But in both cases … drum roll, please … he effect was limited to males.
 
Of course, my tween girls didn’t use pacifiers, and they still punch each other.  This I will blame on Sponge Bob, until further notice.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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