Most parents believe that a baby’s cry is a distress call alerting them to a problem. But according to a new study conducted by Japanese researchers, infants as young as 7 months are capable of deception.
For half a year researchers at the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo studied two babies, aged 7 and 9 months, to look at whether they were distressed or happy immediately before and after crying. Negative emotion was identified by visible signals such as distressed sounds, grimacing and a downward turned lip.
Hiroko Nakayama, one of the scientists that conducted the research, stated that “there appeared to be an instance of fake crying” with the younger of the babies. In this instance the infant was playing with her mother, when the mother moved away for a short time.
The baby then “appeared to cry deliberately to get her mother’s attention and convey to her [mother] that she wanted her to come closer and play with her again,” said Nakayama.
Nakayama was careful to point out that ‘fake’ crying is not negative in this context, saying it is a useful form of communication that “contributes greatly not only to an infant’s social development but also to their emotional development” and that it could “add much to their relationships.”
The scientists revealed that after a crying episode the babies only gradually became happier after physical contact with a parent.
The study also concluded that infants with siblings may exhibit more instances of fake crying as they are competing with brothers and sisters for their parents’ attention.