Washington, Sept 19: Pacifiers may stunt the emotional development of baby boys by robbing them of the opportunity to try on facial expressions during infancy, a new study has revealed.
Three experiments by a team of researchers led by psychologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison tie heavy pacifier use as a young child to poor results on various measures of emotional maturity.
The study is the first to associate pacifiers with psychological consequences.
The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics already call for limiting pacifier use to promote breast-feeding, and because of connections to ear infections or dental abnormalities.
Humans of all ages often mimic - unwittingly or otherwise - the expressions and body language of the people around them.
"By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself," Paula Niedenthal, UW-Madison psychology professor and lead author of the study, said.
"That's one of the ways we understand what someone is feeling - especially if they seem angry, but they're saying they're not; or they're smiling, but the context isn't right for happiness," she said.
Mimicry can be an important learning tool for babies.
"We can talk to infants, but at least initially they aren't going to understand what the words mean. So the way we communicate with infants at first is by using the tone of our voice and our facial expressions," Niedenthal said.
With a pacifier in their mouth, a baby is less able to mirror those expressions and the emotions they represent.
The researchers found six- and seven-year-old boys who spent more time with pacifiers in their mouths as young children were less likely to mimic the emotional expressions of faces peering out from a video.
The study is published by the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology. (ANI)