This is the latest baby to make waves on youtube. The baby seems to be showing a remarkable range of emotions in response to her mother’s singing of a sad song.
Quite a lot of people have asked me to explain this video. But I have to admit that I don’t really know. However, many other baby scientists have taken an interest too. Kate Gammon at the the Kinderlab blog has asked around and reports on a few expert opinions:
“I imagine that the video of the baby’s response to her mother’s singing is popular because it appears to show a sweet sentimentality at 10 months of age,” says Susan Jones, a professor of psychology at Indiana University who studies infant communication. “However, the baby’s facial expressions are more consistent with a conflict between sociality and fear – perhaps a positive social response to her mother’s face, and fear in response to her mother’s low and loud singing voice, which is not like her speaking voice. Babies at this age often react negatively to unfamiliar things, including new people, and familiar people with something out of whack (e.g., wearing a hat).”
I think they have it basically right that one ought to very careful of over-interpreting baby’s reactions to things in adult terms. A lot of the time their reaction is at a much simpler level. But it is still weird that the babies reaction hovers in an mildly worried and sad state. Normally that would quickly transition over into tears. A bit like this: