You’ve probably made a silly face or 2 for your baby, because past research indicated that infants are capable of imitating you within hours of being born, of course you wanted to see if your kid could hang with the best of them. But a new study, led by Virginia Slaughter of the University of Queensland, suggests you may have been making yourself look stupid for no reason; her findings slaughter the previous notion that what your baby is responding to you at all.
Researchers showed 106 infants 11 different expressions, gestures or sounds at one, 3, 6 and 9 weeks of age, including tongue poking, mouth opening, finger pointing, happy expressions, and sounds like “mmm” and “eee.” Surprisingly, the results did not show that this was the most embarrassing day of these scientists’ lives. They did show that after the babies were exposed to each behavior for a full minute, their responses had little to do with what was being modeled and when they matched it was coincidental. For instance, the most commonly replicated gesture was tongue poking, which they did regardless of what was in front of them because babies are just into that.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of a fallacy, but other experts like Dr. Elizabeth Simpson from the University of Miami argue that these results are flawed because the facial expressions babies were expected to mimic are too advanced. The debate is far from settled, so if sticking your tongue out at your baby and dropping an “eee,” or 2 is important to you, it’s not going to cause any problems (unless your kid is old enough to ask you to stop). At the same time, you don’t have to freak out if your kid isn’t copying your every expression. They’ll be mercilessly mocking you in no time, even if it’s not on day one.