The Loh Down On Science

Tips to understanding what babies' cries mean

Why is that baby crying?    Finally—an objective way to tell!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Spanish psychologists were curious about how babies telegraph their feelings.  So they designed a study to see which facial and vocal features are associated with anger, fear, and pain in babies.

Their lab?  A daycare center for babies aged three to eighteen months.  There, as the team tried to provoke each emotion, they videotaped twenty babies' individual responses.

To elicit anger, the team held babies' hands or feet captive for a few seconds.  So maddening!  For fear, they made sudden loud handclaps.  And for pain?  They merely recorded the babies getting their required vaccinations.  Pobrecitos!

Analysis of the videos revealed that pain is the most clearcut expression.  Babies crying in pain close their eyes.

Fear and anger are more subtly different because eyes stay open for both.  Babies in fear cry suddenly, explosively.  Angry babies?  Their cries increase in intensity with time.

As every parent who's ever tried to switch off the Barney song after the hundredth time knows all too well.  Want to see my painful face?

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

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

Follow us on Twitter!


blog comments powered by Disqus