‘Still, Face’ Experiment: The field of psychology is filled with numerous experiments and studies. It gives us an insight into the complex world of psychology and helps us understand things better.
One such important experiment related to babies was carried out by an American psychologist Dr. Edward Tronick in the 1970s. It is called ‘Still Face’ Experiment.
Previously it was thought that babies do not respond well to adult behavior. Or they cannot convey what they are feeling through expressions or sounds. This experiment proves otherwise.
It shows us the response of a baby to their parent’s actions.
It helps to understand the emotional development taking place in the babies and how important it is to keep interacting with them.
‘Still, Face’ experiment was carried out as below:
- A parent was asked to play and interact with their baby as they would normally.
- After a few minutes, the parent was told to turn away their face for a moment.
- Now after turning the face back towards the baby, the parent was asked to sit with a blank face, staring at the baby (ignore the baby’s playful actions completely).
- It was noticed that the baby became uncomfortable and tried best to draw attention By making sounds, showing signs of discomfort, and emotional distress, crying.
- Again the parent was told to look away for a moment, turn back and resume playing, and interacting with the baby normally.
- As soon as the parent turned their attention towards the baby, it stopped crying and the stress levels became low. The baby went back to the usual moments of playfulness.
What does the ‘Still, Face’ experiment prove?
This ‘Still, Face’ experiment proves that an infant or a baby of say, a few months to one year old, can properly respond to their parent’s actions and behavior towards them.
The babies clearly show signs of discomfort and increased stress levels as soon as the parent starts ignoring them.
This is extremely helpful in understanding the development of the brain in young children and babies.
It shows that a child who cannot think clearly, not able to form healthy social relationships, cannot control his or her emotions is the direct result of neglect and child abuse.
The experiment was also helpful in finding out infants who have some disabilities like deafness, autism, down syndrome, etc.
How serious are neglect and child abuse?
Studies have shown that if an infant is subjected to constant neglect or child abuse, it can have detrimental effects on the psychological and physiological growth. In extreme cases, the infant may even die.
Since humans are social beings and designed to be in interaction with others, infants are no exception.
If an infant is a victim of neglect and child abuse, at first, it will try its best to drive attention by smiling, cooing, shaking hands, and legs, showing discomfort.
But if this goes on for longer periods and frequently, some babies will display some self-soothing behavior like sucking the back of hand or thumb, as they disengage from their parents.
Sadly, a few babies will never recover. They will be permanently damaged psychologically.
Studies have also shown increased heart rate, an increased flow of the stress-causing hormone cortisol, and even death of cells in prime regions in the brain in infants subjected to neglect or child abuse.
Why are infants subjected to The Still Face: neglect and child abuse?
One of the reasons is that the parent or babysitter themselves might have been a victim of neglect and child abuse during their childhood, so they are displaying the same behavior towards the baby.
Another reason maybe use of drugs or alcohol, which causes loss of control and ability to think clearly. Another reason could be poverty – which leads to increased stress in adults and hence the infants become the victim of abuse.
Thus, ‘Still Face’ Experiment is one of the best and efficient experiments that answered many questions about the psychology of an infant. It helped to understand the negative impact of neglect and child abuse on the baby.
This ‘Still, Face’ experiment helped child psychologists and researchers around the world to study the emotional development of an infant. It also made more people in the world aware of the dangers of neglect, ignorance, child abuse.
Diagnosis of ailments like down syndrome, autism, deafness in the baby was made possible easily by this experiment.
Human beings can think and make rational decisions. This experiment should be an eye-opener to all those parents or babysitters neglecting the baby or abusing them in any form.
Let us make this world a better place to live in and abolish such practices of neglect or child abuse.
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