Infants time their smiles to make their moms smile

Paul Ruvolo, Daniel S Messinger, Javier Movellan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

One of the earliest forms of interaction between mothers and infants is smiling games. While the temporal dynamics of these games have been extensively studied, they are still not well understood. Why do mothers and infants time their smiles the way they do? To answer this question we applied methods from control theory, an approach frequently used in robotics, to analyze and synthesize goal-oriented behavior. The results of our analysis show that by the time infants reach 4 months of age both mothers and infants time their smiles in a purposeful, goal-oriented manner. In our study, mothers consistently attempted to maximize the time spent in mutual smiling, while infants tried to maximize mother-only smile time. To validate this finding, we ported the smile timing strategy used by infants to a sophisticated child-like robot that automatically perceived and produced smiles while interacting with adults. As predicted, this strategy proved successful at maximizing adult-only smile time. The results indicate that by 4 months of age infants interact with their mothers in a goal-oriented manner, utilizing a sophisticated understanding of timing in social interactions. Our work suggests that control theory is a promising technique for both analyzing complex interactive behavior and providing new insights into the development of social communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0136492
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 23 2015

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Control theory
Mothers
Smiling
Robotics
robots
Robots
animal communication
Communication
Mother-Child Relations
methodology
Interpersonal Relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Infants time their smiles to make their moms smile. / Ruvolo, Paul; Messinger, Daniel S; Movellan, Javier.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 9, e0136492, 23.09.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Ruvolo, Paul ; Messinger, Daniel S ; Movellan, Javier. / Infants time their smiles to make their moms smile. In: PLoS One. 2015 ; Vol. 10, No. 9.
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