For the “well I’ll be damned” story of the week, here’s a fun one from science daily talking about how “heavy pacifier use” among boys can stunt emotional growth!
If you’ve ever had a child, you might have watched as they sat and made faces in a play mirror or copied the expressions on your face (or others’ faces). Kids are fun that way and truly it’s about exploring the wide range of emotions and the world around them that they now have access to being liberated from the confined space of mom’s uterus. 🙂
However, because many human facial expressions can be inhibited by a chunk of plastic on your face (i.e. a pacifier), researchers found that this adversely impacts the ability to recognize and assess emotions in other people with children who used pacifiers heavily during their first few years. Though “children” implies girls who were oddly, unaffected!
Is this due to the fact that we tend to nurture the emotional response in girls more than in boys? By the time that the first round of measurements were taken, it was clear that boys and girls would have been adequately socialized to act in certain ways (boys tough, girls nurturing) which could account for some results though many questions still remain!
Anyway, there were two levels to the study: 6 & 7 year old boys and college age boys. With the younger sect of boys, they were less likely to copy the expressions of faces looking back at them. Do you ever do this subconsciously or similar things, like leaning to the side when you want your video game character to go to the side?
Well, while college kids might be more expressive, those pacifier sucking boys who remembered heavy p-time scored poorly on a “perspective-taking” empathy test. Basically, it was difficult for these guys to figure out the mood of another person. I feel like I may have said to more than a few men in my time, “Can’t you see how upset I am?” or something similar and perhaps, they hit the pacifier pretty hard back in the day and literally could not see or process my emotions. Weird.
“What’s impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data,” said Paula Niedenthal, UW-Madison psychology professor and lead author of the study. “There’s no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there’s a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development.”
So regardless of whether you have a boy or a girl, it is probably a good idea to encourage non-pacifier time along with the “binky.”