I was at a talk today by an infant psychologist. It was about attachment and the importance of babies’ social interactions. The need for love has long been established as stronger than the need for food in some rather unpleasant experiments sensorily depriving rhesus monkeys in the 50’s and 60’s, which by the way would never pass any ethics committee these days. The following video shows it, it isn’t very “nice” but fascinating nevertheless.
The speaker showed us a video of the “Still face experiment” where the researcher got a parent to show no emotion and not interact at all with their baby and watched their response.
I tried it today on The Boy, it was startling, at only 4 months he reacted just as described in the video, given his level of development (i.e. he smiled, he waved his limbs around, he looked away, he vocalised then cried. He didn’t point or gesture at anything – he isn’t capable of it) what was more startling was that he did it in only about 30 seconds.
It is abundantly clear that if only 2 mins gets this reaction imagine what damage having a disengaged distant parent would be, or worse the psychological damage done by having no stable parent at all like in the Eastern European orphanages reported so widely in mid the 90s.
Apparently your social responses and desire for social interaction is hard wired by about 18 months! The speaker put up pictures of a functional MRI study that showed temporal lobe activity in the sensory deprived kids is grossly reduced – whole bits of brain aren’t turned on when they should be! Some other researchers did weird sensory and social depravation experiments on animals (I missed the details) and their temporal lobes just didn’t develop properly. It’s amazing to think your social interaction and how people treat you determines how well bits of your brain grow!
Try it on your little one – it’s fascinating! (Clearly I mean the face experiment, not depriving them then dissecting out their temporal lobes).