Friday, September 13, 2013

Emotional Behavior of Infants

After Watson’s experiments in 1919, it was thought for a long time that the infant was endowed by nature with three specific emotions: rage, fear, and affection. Watson found that restriction of a child’s bodily movements, as by holding his arms or legs firmly, aroused a reaction which he called rage. Similarly, he observed that falling and loud noise induced fear. Pleasant stroking of certain parts of the body, he stated, brought a response not unlike that accompanying
some doubt on the specificity of the child’s feeling responses.

In one experiment, for example, motion pictures were taken of the children stimulated in the Watson’s manner. When the film was cut so that the responses were separated from the stimuli, a group of psychologists was not able to match them properly. It is possible that adults read their own responses into emotional reactions of infants.

Heredity may give the new-born babe only a generalized capacity for responding emotionally against responding annoyance of one kind or another. The specific emotions come later. Even by the Watson’s formula it is clear that the infant has little in the way of emotional behavior. He learns to be afraid of few things or of many things, to respond angrily to many or few different situations, but the organization of emotional expression is quite rudimentary in the new-born child.

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