Babies might be smarter than you think, as researchers have discovered that infants smile in order to manipulate adults. The adorable smile of a baby is usually just a ploy in order to get their older counterparts to fulfill their requests. The findings come from a study that was conducted by research psychologists at the University of California at San Diego.
Study leader Javier Movellan says, “Babies are very goal-oriented.” Movellan’s team found that babies time their smiles precisely, often for the purpose of getting adults to smile back at them.
The study was conducted by utilizing a simulated toddler, which consisted of a robot named Diego-San, to test how well they could elicit smiles out of undergraduate students.
When the robot made smiles at random rates, the students were unlikely to smile. However, when data obtained from interactions between mothers and their smiling babies was input into the robot’s programming, the robot successfully managed to make the students smile more often.
According to the results, by the time a baby is four months old it is able to determine how long to make eye contact and when to turn its lips into a smile in order to maximize the number of positive responses they get out of adults.
The researchers of the study did not mention the purpose of getting adults to smile. However, it is believed that since babies are essentially helpless, they have a natural need to maximize the amount of positive emotions out of their caretakers. Babies are aware that their caretakers are experiencing positive emotions when they smile.
Therefore, making adults smile is a regular goal of babies.
The research team also mentioned that their findings might assist psychologists in creating new ways to monitor the development of children. They believe that this will be especially useful for children with autism.