Does the organization of emotional expression change over time? Facial expressivity from 4 to 12 months

David S. Bennett, Margaret Bendersky, Micheal Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Differentiation models contend that the organization of facial expressivity increases during infancy. Accordingly, infants are believed to exhibit increasingly specific facial expressions in response to stimuli as a function of development. This study tested this hypothesis in a sample of 151 infants (83 boys and 68 girls) observed in 4 situations (tickle, sour taste, arm restraint, and masked stranger) at 4 and 12 months of age. Three of the 4 situations showed evidence of increasing specificity over time. In response to tickle, the number of infants exhibiting joy expressions increased and the number exhibiting interest, surprise, and surprise blends decreased from 4 to 12 months. In tasting a sour substance, more infants exhibited disgust and fewer exhibited joy and interest expressions, and fear and surprise blends over time. For arm restraint, more infants exhibited anger expressions and anger blends and fewer exhibited interest and surprise expressions and surprise blends over time. In response to a masked stranger, however, no evidence of increased specificity was found. Overall, these findings suggest that infants increasingly exhibit particular expressions in response to specific stimuli during the 1st year of life. These data provide partial support for the hypothesis that facial expressivity becomes increasingly organized over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-187
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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