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Keywords:

  • young infants;
  • expression of emotion;
  • shyness;
  • coyness;
  • bashfulness;
  • embarrassment;
  • adult perception

Abstract

Previous research has found that 2- to 4-month-old infants display a behavioural pattern similar to adult expressions of shyness and related emotions (coyness, bashfulness, embarrassment). In the present study, 6 video-clips of this pattern and 10 of control patterns varying on a number of features and contexts were presented to 37 judges in a free-labelling task and in a rating task. Two examples of the target pattern were perceived as expressing primarily shyness and related emotions, three were perceived as expressing primarily happiness with varying degrees of these emotions, and one as expressing several other emotions as well as shyness and related ones. Yet, judges perceived shyness and related emotions almost exclusively in the target pattern, across different contexts and judgement tasks. The three clips perceived as most ‘shy’ were also used in a between-judges session to control for priming effects. Overall, results suggest that young infants can be perceived as shy, coy, bashful or embarrassed, in particular when their expressive behaviour resembles the relevant adult expressions. Implications for the early development of these emotions are considered. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.