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Mental Health - Neurological Disorders - Pediatrics and Child Health


Infant Pupil Diameter Changes in Response to Others' Positive and Negative Emotions
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Author: Elena Geangu et al.

by Elena Geangu, Petra Hauf, Rishi Bhardwaj, Wolfram Bentz

It has been suggested that infants resonate emotionally to others' positive and negative affect displays, and that these responses become stronger towards emotions with negative valence around the age of 12-months. In this study we measured 6- and 12-month-old infants' changes in pupil diameter when presented with the image and sound of peers experiencing happiness, distress and an emotionally neutral state. For all participants the perception of another's distress triggered larger pupil diameters. Perceiving other's happiness also induced larger pupil diameters but for shorter time intervals. Importantly, we also found evidence for an asymmetry in autonomous arousal towards positive versus negative emotional displays. Larger pupil sizes for another's distress compared to another's happiness were recorded shortly after stimulus onset for the older infants, and in a later time window for the 6-month-olds. These findings suggest that arousal responses for negative as well as for positive emotions are present in the second half of the first postnatal year. Importantly, an asymmetry with stronger responses for negative emotions seems to be already present at this age.
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