Add this news to the “They really studied that?’ files. Apparently, someone did a study about how babies react to adult facial expressions and found that boys – and only boys – that use pacifiers mimic fewer expressions. Furthermore, college age boys who had used pacifiers heavily as babies had lower emotional intelligence scores:
The researchers found six- and seven-year-old boys who spent more time with pacifiers in their mouths as young children were less likely to mimic the emotional expressions of faces peering out from a video.
College-aged men who reported (by their own recollections or their parents’) more pacifier use as kids scored lower than their peers on common tests of perspective-taking, a component of empathy.
Great. Yet another way to make parents feel like they’re screwing up their kid. Sure, the pacifier will make a baby’s screaming stop right now but will it turn him into an emotionless automaton later in life?
The good news of this study, if there is any, is that it appears that there’s no emotional stunting happening by giving your baby a binky for sleep:
Since the study measures babies’ response to signals sent by adults during waking hours — or “learning time” — Niedenthal says it seems that putting a baby down at night with a binky doesn’t make a difference.
Which should come as a relief to wall-eyed parents everywhere who want emotionally healthy kids AND a decent night’s sleep.
Given that this study is largely based on self-reporting of past behavior, I’m not super sure it’s the most valid study ever published. But I’m not a scientist. Maybe they’re onto something. Maybe pacifiers are responsible for the behavior of every emotionally unavailable jerk I ever dated in college.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be trying to quiz my son, who used a pacifier until he was four, on empathy.
Photo credit: photo stock
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