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Maternal personality and infants' neural and visual responsivity to facial expressions of emotion

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • M de Haan
  • J Belsky
  • V Reid
  • A Volein
  • M H Johnson
Journal publication date2004
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Journal number7
Volume45
Number of pages10
Pages1209-1218
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Background: Recent investigations suggest that experience plays an important role in the development of face processing. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential role of experience in the development of the ability to process facial expressions of emotion. Method: We examined the potential role of experience indirectly by investigating the relationship between the emotional environment provided by mothers (as indexed by affective measures of their personality) and 7-month-olds' processing of emotional expressions (as indexed by visual attention and event-related potentials [ERPs]). Results: For positive emotion, infants with highly positive mothers looked longer at fearful than happy expressions, and a subset of these infants who themselves also scored highly on positive temperament showed a larger negative central (Nc) component in the ERP to fearful than happy faces. For negative emotion, there were no detectable influences of maternal personality, although very fearful infants showed a larger Nc to fearful than happy expressions over the right hemisphere. Conclusion: To the extent that these variations in maternal disposition reflect variations in their expression of positive facial expressions, these results suggest that the emotional environment experienced by infants contributes to the development of their responses to facial expressions.