Social Communication Essay
Discuss whether facial expression use in infants (0- 18 months) is innate or learned, and its importance of communication with reference to theory of mind.
Facial expression is one of the first forms of communication available to humans (Meltzoff & Moore, 1977). One problem still under debate is whether or not facial expressions are a learned mechanism, or is it an innate trait, which is passed on genetically. The way I have decided to tackle this problem is to look at the development of facial expression across different cultures. I expect that I will find that the facial expressions of different cultures will be slightly different, but will be recognisable. Facial expressions are especially important as they give us the ability to see the emotions of other individuals, an invaluable ability as a lot of the theory of mind is based upon the emotions of the people we are observing, i.e. if someone checks in a mailbox, and walks away sad, we assume that something they are waiting for has not arrived. In this essay I will attempt to explain how facial expression is directly related to several aspects of theory of mind.
Facial expression in infants:
Facial expressions are the most basic of all forms of communication; infants are able to imitate different facial expressions as soon as 21 days after birth (Meltsoff & Moore, 1977). This very early ability to imitate leads me to believe that the ability to produce facial expressions is an innate ability, as the child has been unable to see its own face to practice using the different muscles related to expression in the face. This shows us that children are ready from birth to learn non-verbal communication (Meltsoff & Moore, 1977). The development of facial expression is also sequential with instinctive expression being apparent right after birth (crying, smiling), this is soon followed by reactive smiling (smiling to other human faces), then anger, and finally fear....