Research from scientists at Brigham Young University, published in Infant Behavior and Development, found that 5-month-olds remembered experiencing positive emotions far more than negative ones.
The purpose of this study was to examine the behavioral effects of adults’ faces on 5-month-olds’ visual recognition memory. Five-month-olds were exposed to a dynamic happy, angry, or neutral affective (face–voice) expression while familiarized to a novel geometric image. After familiarization to the geometric image and exposure to the affective expression, 5-month-olds received either a 5-minute or 1-day retention interval. Following the 5-minute retention interval, infants exposed to the happy expressions showed a reliable preference for a novel geometric image compared to the recently familiarized image.
Babies exposed to the neutral or angry affective expression failed to show a reliable preference following a 5-minute delay. Following the 1-day retention interval, however, infants exposed to the neutral expression showed a reliable preference for the novel geometric image. These results are the first to demonstrate that 5-month-olds’ visual recognition memory is affected by the presentation of emotional information.
This research concludes that a bright, cheery face while holding up soft books or blocks for your baby to look at, pairing this positive emotion with the learning experience could help the memory stick.
“People study memory in infants, they study discrimination in emotional affect, but we are the first ones to study how these emotions influence memory,” BYU psychology professor Ross Flom said in a statement.
“We think what happens is that the positive affect heightens the babies’ attentional system and arousal,” Flom said. “By heightening those systems, we heighten their ability to process and perhaps remember this geometric pattern.”