Adults are wont to believe that babies are not able to detect or determine if they are revealing their true emotions or not. Recent studies revealed that infants as young as 18 months old can actually tell whether an adult is not responding accordingly to a given situation. In simple terms, infants know when adults are bluffing or lying!
Research results will show that babies or infants have more capacity of discerning fake emotions more than we give them credit for. One most common faking of emotions done by adults is hiding the unpleasant feeling of pain. Putting on of a happy face while being vaccinated for example sends confusing signals especially when the child himself or herself goes through the same procedure.
When made to observe adults showing varying emotions, infants aged 15-18 months were likewise observed for their own reactions in relation to the emotion showed by the adult and the situation he or she is in. The 18-month old babies showed empathy for adults showing sadness in a fitting situation while the younger ones appeared not to have varying reactions. The development of this understanding is very important to function effectively in society in the future.
The infants who were included in the research studies showed their intent in understanding what is being presented to them. They tend to look back and forth at the faces of the presenters and their caretakers. It is as if they are taking their cue from the people they are supposed to trust.
Being able to understand emotions is highly adaptive and evolutionary. It requires going through different life processes that will not always be the same for all. It is likely that these studies will have to be studied further and it is highly possible that there will be additional discoveries to be made.
There are several implications of studies that show that infants are able to detect fakes emotions. One is the possibility that a child will see the “faking” adult as someone unreliable and is therefore not a positive model for learning. Another is that the confusion may affect the ability of the child to correctly connect the right emotion to the situation.
There are no conclusive evidence with regards to these suggested implications. Obviously, this would require long term study of the same subjects to be able to arrive at any conclusive finding. What appears to be clear at this time is that parents should be extra careful as to what message they are sending with their reactions.