Affective influences on startle in five-month-old infants: reactions to facial expressions of emotions

Child Dev. 1995 Feb;66(1):28-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1995.tb00853.x.


Convergent methodologies from studies of fear-potentiated startle in animals and studies of affective modulation of reflex blinks in humans were adapted in order to investigate infants' sensitivity to affective information conveyed by facial expressions of emotion. While 5-month-old infants viewed photographic slides of faces posed in happy, neutral, or angry expressions, a brief acoustic noise burst was presented to elicit the blink component of human startle. Blink size was augmented during the viewing of angry expressions and reduced during happy expressions. Infants did not show marked changes in behavioral reactions to the positive, neutral, and negative slides, although motor activity was slightly reduced during negative slides. Results suggest that, by 5 months, infants react to affective information conveyed by unfamiliar human faces. Potential mechanisms mediating the influence of affective stimuli on reflex excitability are considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Affect*
  • Anger
  • Arousal
  • Blinking
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Reflex, Startle*
  • Visual Perception