chapter  11
11 Pages

From `social smile' to laughter: how positive emotions develop

Father to Toto (2Ý months old): `OK, I'm gonna smile and then you're gonna smile. Ready?'

Research on emotional development in infancy in general and laughter in particular provides a rich source of information concerning not only emotional but also cognitive development in infancy (Sroufe and Wunsch 1972). This idea relates to the argument that emotional intelligence plays an important role in determining a person's ability to succeed in life and directly in¯uences a person's psychological well-being in terms of their emotional health. Explaining emotional experience might foster children's understanding of the breadth of a speci®c emotion, such as happiness, which is usually indicated by positive facial expressions, such as a smile. Some researchers (e.g. Sroufe 1995) argue that positive emotions in the ®rst three months of life are related to the child experiencing the recognition of a visual stimulus (e.g. the father's face) with a relaxation in cognitive tension. As infants mature cognitively, they also grow emotionally and around 9 months of age, infants express more intense positive emotional feeling states, through smiling and laughter (e.g. Sroufe 1995). Hence, researchers such as Izard and Ackerman (2000) and Lewis (2000) see infant smiles as an index of joy. One function of the expression of joy is to maintain a close social tie with the person at whom the joyous expression is directed (e.g. Campos et al. 1994).