September 19, 2012

Pacifier use retards emotional development in boys.

According to a UW-Madison study by psychprof Paula Niedenthal, who tested the boys and theorizes that the problem is that when you've got a pacifier in your mouth, you can't mimic the facial expressions you see, and it's this mimicry that causes the brain to become capable of feeling the emotion the other person is expressing.

That sounds plausible, but why is it a boy problem?

Niedenthal said studies on girls did not show the same phenomenon. She said that may be because of societal norms that prompt parents to work harder at encouraging the expression of emotion in girls.
Or maybe girls are innately more emotional. Maybe you want to plug in the pacifier so they don't get overemotional. If Niedenthal is right, and it's those parents trying so hard to get a smile out of their girls, why not use the pacifier on the boys but encourage them more? Eh. I don't know. I only had boys. We used pacifiers, and we were always trying to get them to laugh and smile. I seem to remember lots of smiling and laughing around the pacifier, which often fell out as a result.
Niedenthal... compared her work with babies and pacifiers to studies that have shown people who use Botox, which paralyzes facial muscles, have a more limited range of emotions and also have difficulty recognizing the emotions behind others' facial expressions.
Would that mean that if you're a woman who's all excitable and dependent on what other people think of you, you could go in for a good Botoxing so you could calm down and get things done in a more manly way?
[Niedenthal's] current research had a much less scientific origin. Her own three boys did not use pacifiers, Niedenthal said. She recalled a dinner at which her 3-year-old son was throwing a fit. She noticed that another child at the table, who was using a pacifier, did not respond to her son's flailing tantrum.

"The parents took the pacifier out, and the child still did not respond," Niedenthal said. "That's when I got the idea for this research."
Funny that the research showed that her boys were better off. Science! It has so many applications!

I don't know what emotional intelligence test Niedenthal used, but some of the tests were done on adult men who'd used pacifiers when they were babies. One test I noticed recently was the "mind in the eyes test." Try it.

56 comments:

Dante said...

I wonder how those who believe there are no differences in the sexes are going to spin this. My view is there are differences, and males and females have been on separate evolutionary tracks for many, many millions of years, and have adapted to their environment differently to ensure the survival of their genes.

I suppose that's sacrilegious to some, though I still don't quite understand the feminists who on the one hand say "We are all alike," and at the same time think it would be better if women ruled the world since they are less bellicose. I suppose one has to be a woman to understand that logic.

exhelodrvr1 said...

So they should use Botox on babies instead?

TomB said...

I think the obvious solution here is exactly what exhelodrvr1 said. Botox the girl babies so boys and girls exhibit the same behavior. We can't be having inequality of outcomes when it comes to something as important as emotional expression!

Pogo said...

She said 'retards'! PC violation!
Gendarmes!

Oh. As a verb?

Sorry. Can't be too careful.

Scott said...

"...why is it a boy problem?"

Perhaps because parents are more comfortable with girls sucking things than they are with boys sucking things.

Patrick said...

Your tax dollars at work. You'd think we've solved all of the big problems if we're down to this.

#firstworldproblems.

Matthew Sablan said...

So does this mean blind babies are even worse off at emotional development? I mean, they can't even SEE the faces they need to mimic to learn how to feel.

Dante said...

I got 25 on the test. Forgot to do 2, and submitted one in the wrong way. So much for my wife's belief I have Aspergers.

Matthew Sablan said...

(Or is that too far into the extremes that it is no longer comparable? I'm actually curious. If mimicking facial expressions is so valuable, how do babies who are unable to see learn to express emotions? Are blind people even less emotional than boys? I think that's a good way to check if this science is on solid ground or not. It is like, the perfect test case. If blind girls are -still- more emotional than sighted boys, mimicry is clearly not what is going on here.)

Salamandyr said...

Something else to consider, and it's probably outside the scope of the original study, but something to consider...is any of this emotional effect of pacifier use long term?

Even if pacifier use does slow the development of certain responses in boys, it may still be worthwhile for parents, assuming the benefits of pacifier use, like mood regulation and stress elimination, outweigh the slowed development, assuming that the pacifier using child reaches the same point of development.

Matthew Sablan said...

Salamandyr: From the article, it sounds like the author found that even adult males who used pacifiers still were less emotionally aware than non-pacifier users and women, so if there is an impact from using pacifiers, it is long term.

Matthew Sablan said...

Er... who used pacifiers as babies, not adults who still use pacifiers.

Clarity!

clint said...

FWIW: I was given a pacifier when I was a baby. I scored a 29 on the test. And I haven't had my coffee yet.

Franklin said...

That was a cool test, thanks for posting.

I got 33/36 and I think the ones I missed could've been interpreted either way.

David said...

Parents need to work to encourage the development of emotional expression in girls? I am father to two girls, stepfather to three, grandfather to two. They needed no great encouragement.

TMink said...

This professor is working from the viewpoint that behavior shapes neurology, and it does, to an extent. It is much more accepted in scientific communities that neurology drives behavior, and the neuroglogical research on empathy development focuses on the prefrontal orbital cortex.

This part of the brain serves as brakes for our fear and anger as well as the source of empathy. That research suggests that the poc develops from 20 weeks gestation to 9 months post-partum and then stops development. Forever.

Behavioral and environmental factors hinder or help this development, those factors include the mother's positive emotional stance during the pregnancy, the mother's low stress level during the pregnancy, empathic attunement and succesful attachment of the child to a caregive in the first 9 months and the infant getting it's needs met in the first 9 months.

If those factors are available, the poc develops normally. If they are not available enough, then the poc does not develop and you have a sociopath.

The infant research also focuses on parents mimicing their infants emotions, not the other way around.

Trey

Roman said...

Psyco-babble. Wait a few years, then when boys act like boys and you are too lazy to disipline them, drug them, blame something else for their poor performance.

Synova said...

32

Honest, I think it's mostly head tilt.

chickelit said...

My wife used pacifiers with both our kids (a boy and girl who are close in age). Curiously, only the boy showed enough emotion to overcome the expressive handicap. Whenever something new and delightful caught his attention he'd drop the sucker and break out into the cutest wide grin. I called such events and stimuli "plug poppers."

Pogo said...

30.

Why were the women's pictures all from fashion mags?

AllieOop said...

What about thumb suckers? I would imagine if this study was accurate, thumb sucking would be worse because obviously one can't remove the thumb from easy access.My grandson was a thumb sucker, he was the most serene easy sweet baby I've ever taken care of.

My score was 31.

AllieOop said...

Synova, you hare so right about the head tilt.

prairie wind said...

When I took the mind-eye test, I looked at the eyes and decided what I thought the person was feeling before I looked at the choices. For most of the test, anyway. At some point, I realized that my answer could be different if I saw the choices first.

Sometimes I would look at the eyes and think "amused," but "amused" wasn't one of the choices.

As for pacifiers, don't do it! Thumbs cannot be dropped.

There's another variable--do children who suck their thumbs/fists/fingers read emotions better or worse than the pacifier kids or the kids who do neither?

AllieOop said...

Haha, hair of the dog that bit ya, coffffeee.....

MadisonMan said...

I absolutely love the genesis of this work -- the observation that a kid using a pacifier was not responding to a fit. Is there anything more beautifully scientific? See something happen, and then try to figure out why.

I got a 27 on the test.

Paula said...

Silly test. I'm the mother of three young men and they all had pacifiers....for years. They chewed and sucked, smiled and laughed...all while that bit of plastic was plugged in. They were emotive and empathetic as babies, young children, and are as young men. They are socially well adjusted and off at college doing well (without the pacifiers, may I add).

rhhardin said...

Watson would get to the bottom of it quickly enough.

(bottom of page and top of next)

edutcher said...

Got a 29, FWIW.

Boys are loud and unruly. Maybe the pacifier keeps them from expressing themselves the way they need to.

AllieOop said...

What about thumb suckers? I would imagine if this study was accurate, thumb sucking would be worse because obviously one can't remove the thumb from easy access.My grandson was a thumb sucker, he was the most serene easy sweet baby I've ever taken care of.

Sucking is an instinct necessary for survival in infancy (nipples...)

For some, it remains necessary for survival throughout adulthood.

jdniner said...

I do see a lot of scary stone faced toddlers crawling around.
A pacifier might more often signal a lack of attention from the parent. Emotional transference will occur in other channels if it is a human need.

wef said...

Sounds like this could be just more cargo-cult science.

Anyway, an opportunity to reference Feynman's Caltech talk:

http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/3043/1/CargoCult.pdf

and here is an audio reading:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvfAtIJbatg

Deirdre Mundy said...

A lot of non-pacifier babies don't sleep as soundly. So they spend more time in arms, glued to the breast, where they get more interaction from Mom.

Did they control for amount of time in arms? I doubt it....

Shana said...

I am another believer in the inherent emotional and mental differences of the sexes due to biology. However, as far as this study is concerned, color me skeptical.

Shana said...

I am another believer in the inherent emotional and mental differences of the sexes due to biology. However, as far as this study is concerned, color me skeptical.

Gabriel Hanna said...

31 for me.

Nobody is saying that boys who have pacifiers can't learn emotions. No one is saying that boy who use pacifiers will never be as good at it as boys who don't.

What the study says is that on the AVERAGE the two are correlated. So no number of people talking about how socially adjusted their own pacifier-sucking boys were casts any doubt on the validity of the study.

If I could wave my wand and make everyone understand something about science, it would be what the properties of a statistical distribution imply about individuals. The answer is "nothing".

You can't refute a statistic with an anecdote. You can't sum anecdotes and get a statistic. You don't have a statistic without a denominator.

exhelodrvr1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exhelodrvr1 said...

Do the pacified babies tend to vote Democrat or Republican?

Methadras said...

Why is it a boys problem? Because it's the continuation of the attack on men. Duh.

Ken Green said...

Ann, you asked a really silly question: "Why is it a boy problem?"

The answer is easy: because it is politically incorrect to ever show that women or girls have problems of any sort, and it's even worse if they happen to have the same or greater "problems" than men or boys might have.

No study can ever conclude that women or girls are, in any conceivable way, less capable of anything than even the most capable male.

Honestly Ann, get with the (female supremacy) program here!

Smilin' Jack said...

For each pair of eyes, choose which word best describes what the person in the picture is thinking or feeling.

Bogus. Whoever made this up has no idea what those people were thinking or feeling. But I do: "Someone is taking my picture."

Tom said...

From hypothesis to methodology to conclusion, this entire study is bullshit squared.

Tom said...

MadisonMan: I absolutely love the genesis of this work -- the observation that a kid using a pacifier was not responding to a fit. Is there anything more beautifully scientific? See something happen, and then try to figure out why.

Yeah, I love that methodology. Last night I ate some week-old tuna casserole. This morning, I looked at the green curtains in the kitchen and then vomited up all the tuna casserole. Ergo, green curtains cause vomiting.

Chip Ahoy said...

I recall that day with some sadness. Everything is a little sad like that. So much uncertainty about what was to happen next.

"Stop sucking your thumb."

"Why?"

"Because it makes you look stupid."

"Okay. But where's my blankey?"

"Dunno."

And now that I'm looking back at it, the lies, THE LIES!!!!

Darrell said...

They call them dummies in the UK.
Like the authors of this study.
Maybe they can ban them by law like they're trying for circumcision. The Left takes the joy out of life. At every turn.

n.n said...

What doesn't break you makes you stronger.

but I am a robot said...

This study sounds like a metaphor for the entitlement state. Hmm.

Maybe the male/female distinction explains why the Obama campaign cast a female for its fictional "Julia" character.

Darrell said...

Obama hates women. Pays them less. Doesn't let their opinions matter, save for Valerie Jarrett.

Digusting.

TomB said...

One knock on the test. They say it is about deciphering facial expressions. That would imply being able to see the expression across the face - this is expression with seeing only the eyes... maybe ocular expressions?

Bruce Hayden said...

I find, as I age, that I worry less and less about facial expression in particular, and how other people feel about things in general.

Kid thinks that I sometimes intrude into other peoples' space. Maybe. That is usually their problem, not mine - except for one time in Phoenix where someone wanted to call me out on it. I explained that it was unintentional, which would just speed everyone behind me up, and that I was just trying to read the menu for when it was my turn at the counter, and that I needed new glasses.

Still not at the point though yet of wearing one piece jump suits or the like, but get in trouble with the women in my life for wearing jeans and a jean jacket that are too close to the same color. And, the problem with that is what? The jacket isn't a fashion statement, and jeans are supposed to be "jeans" colored, aren't they?

In any case, I started going through the test, and decided fairly quickly that I really didn't care about what most of the people were feeling, and gave up. I didn't have a pacifier when I was young, some 60 years ago, and still couldn't tell the flirtatious from the angry out of the corner of the eye look.

Not always this bad, but have had a frustrating morning.

Freeman Hunt said...

Babies with pacifiers are cute. Preschoolers with pacifiers...

None of my children have liked pacifiers, so I have no anecdote to offer.

As for the study, I see correlation, but I don't see any evidence of causation. Same with practically every study one reads these days.

Edwin den Boer said...

Darrell said:

Maybe they can ban them by law like they're trying for circumcision. The Left takes the joy out of life. At every turn.

Are you saying you enjoy circumcision?

Matthew Sablan said...

"What the study says is that on the AVERAGE the two are correlated. So no number of people talking about how socially adjusted their own pacifier-sucking boys were casts any doubt on the validity of the study."

-- Correlation does not imply causation, which is why I suggested we do a similar study with blind kids. If mimicking facial expressions is what is causing the difference (those with pacifiers can't mimic as frequently as those without), then we should see the difference consistently across the blind population, since well, they can NEVER mimic facial expressions.

Darrell said...

Are you saying you enjoy circumcision?

Why yes I do. More importantly, so do the women I have known-or so they have said and otherwise indicated quite often. I'll admit I don't have any other frame of reference, but still. I do more than masturbate inside my own sleeve--IYKWIMATTYD. And I don't look like a sand worm from Dune. Win/win.

Chip S. said...

I didn't do too well on that test. I thought every woman looked like she wanted to have sex.

Jennifer said...

My first was a boy and I was obsessed with doing everything RIGHT. As dictated by the ridiculous mommy wars of the day, of course. We only very occasionally gave him a pacifier.

My second was a girl and I had entirely stopped listening to what "they" say and was listening to myself as a mother (as well as working very hard on maintaining sanity). She had a pacifier whenever she wanted it.

So, this study works out quite well for me.

Fernandinande said...

TMink said: "That research suggests that the poc develops from 20 weeks gestation to 9 months post-partum and then stops development. Forever."

Oops. The prefrontal cortex is actually the last part of the brain to develop, finishing somewhere in the late teens or twenties.

Fernandinande said...

TMink said: "That research suggests that the poc develops from 20 weeks gestation to 9 months post-partum and then stops development. Forever."

Oops. The prefrontal cortex is actually the last part of the brain to develop, finishing somewhere in the late teens or twenties.