Emotional expression and heart rate in high-risk infants during the face-to-face/still-face

Whitney I. Mattson, Naomi V. Ekas, Brittany Lambert, Ed Tronick, Barry M. Lester, Daniel S. Messinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In infants, eye constriction-the Duchenne marker-and mouth opening appear to index the intensity of both positive and negative facial expressions. We combined eye constriction and mouth opening that co-occurred with smiles and cry-faces (respectively, the prototypic expressions of infant joy and distress) to measure emotional expression intensity. Expression intensity and heart rate were measured throughout the face-to-face/still-face (FFSF) in a sample of infants with prenatal cocaine exposure who were at risk for developmental difficulties. Smiles declined and cry-faces increased in the still-face episode, but the distribution of eye constriction and mouth opening in smiles and cry-faces did not differ across episodes of the FFSF. As time elapsed in the still face episode potential indices of intensity increased, cry-faces were more likely to be accompanied by eye constriction and mouth opening. During cry-faces there were also moderately stable individual differences in the quantity of eye constriction and mouth opening. Infant heart rate was higher during cry-faces and lower during smiles, but did not vary with intensity of expression or by episode. In sum, infants express more intense negative affect as the still-face progresses, but do not show clear differences in expressive intensity between episodes of the FFSF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)776-785
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Affect
  • Facial Action Coding System
  • Facial expression
  • Heart rate
  • Prenatal cocaine exposure
  • Still-face

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotional expression and heart rate in high-risk infants during the face-to-face/still-face'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this