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Mimicking emotions : how 3–12-month-old infants use the facial expressions and eyes of a model.

Soussignan, Robert and Dollion, Nicolas and Schaal, Benoist and Durand, Karine and Reissland, Nadja and Baudouin, Jean-Yves (2018) 'Mimicking emotions : how 3–12-month-old infants use the facial expressions and eyes of a model.', Cognition and emotion., 32 (4). pp. 827-842.


While there is an extensive literature on the tendency to mimic emotional expressions in adults, it is unclear how this skill emerges and develops over time. Specifically, it is unclear whether infants mimic discrete emotion-related facial actions, whether their facial displays are moderated by contextual cues and whether infants’ emotional mimicry is constrained by developmental changes in the ability to discriminate emotions. We therefore investigate these questions using Baby-FACS to code infants’ facial displays and eye-movement tracking to examine infants’ looking times at facial expressions. Three-, 7-, and 12-month-old participants were exposed to dynamic facial expressions (joy, anger, fear, disgust, sadness) of a virtual model which either looked at the infant or had an averted gaze. Infants did not match emotion-specific facial actions shown by the model, but they produced valence-congruent facial responses to the distinct expressions. Furthermore, only the 7- and 12-month-olds displayed negative responses to the model’s negative expressions and they looked more at areas of the face recruiting facial actions involved in specific expressions. Our results suggest that valence-congruent expressions emerge in infancy during a period where the decoding of facial expressions becomes increasingly sensitive to the social signal value of emotions.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cognition and Emotion on 04/08/2017, available online:
Date accepted:23 July 2017
Date deposited:21 July 2017
Date of first online publication:04 August 2017
Date first made open access:04 August 2018

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