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Mom to a baby boy? Back away from the binky. ScienceDaily reports a trio of experiments show pacifiers, well, kinda suck when it comes to the emotional development -- particularly learning facial expressions -- of young boys.
The experiments are summed up in a new study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which states that people, regardless of age, take on both expressions and body language of others.
"By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself," lead author and psychology professor Paula Niedenthal tells the website. "That's one of the ways we understand what someone is feeling -- especially if they seem angry, but they're saying they're not; or they're smiling, but the context isn't right for happiness."
The thing is, when you have a paci in your mouth, it's hard to use your face to express feelings or emotions. And, the researchers found, when boys who were heavy binkie users were a bit older, like 6 or 7, they "were less likely to mimic the emotional expressions of faces peering out from a video," according to ScienceDaily. Male college students who loved their pacifiers did worse on an empathy experiment and one that measured emotional intelligence, too.
"What's impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data," Niedenthal tells the website. "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, why is pacifier use different for girls?
"It could be that parents are inadvertently compensating for girls using the pacifier, because they want their girls to be emotionally sophisticated. Because that's a girly thing," Niedenthal tells ScienceDaily. "Since girls are not expected to be unemotional, they're stimulated in other ways. But because boys are desired to be unemotional, when you plug them up with a pacifier, you don't do anything to compensate and help them learn about emotions."
The good news is that the negative effects seem to be related to using a pacifer while awake, so there's no harm done from drifting off to sleep with a binky which also has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.