Choliz and others, Spanish Journal of Psychology, 2012.
The duration (horizontal, x-axis) and loudness (vertical, y-axis) of baby cries expressing fear, anger, and pain. Cries of pain and anger get loud fast; cries of fear take slightly longer to ramp up.
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?
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