Maternal nurturing experience affects the perception and recognition of adult and infant facial expressions.PLoS One. 2018; 13(10):e0205738.Plos
The perception and recognition of facial expressions are crucial for parenting. This study investigated whether and how maternal nurturing experience and trait anxiety influence the perception and recognition of infant and adult facial expressions. This was assessed by comparing the performance of primiparous mothers (n = 25) and non-mothers (n = 28) on an emotional face perception task. Trait anxiety was measured using the Japanese version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). We found that mothers had higher recognition accuracy for facial expressions, but only of adults, not infants. Moreover, as trait anxiety increased, so did mothers' sensitivity in perceiving facial expressions of both infants and adults. These findings suggest that maternal nurturing experience does enhance the recognition of adult emotional expressions, and an optimal level of maternal trait anxiety may enhance mothers' sensitivity toward infants' and adults' emotional signals.