Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, 32:133 | Cite as

Infant Smiling Dynamics and Perceived Positive Emotion

  • Daniel S. Messinger
  • Tricia D. Cassel
  • Susan I. Acosta
  • Zara Ambadar
  • Jeffrey F. Cohn
Original Paper


To better understand early positive emotional expression, automated software measurements of facial action were supplemented with anatomically based manual coding. These convergent measurements were used to describe the dynamics of infant smiling and predict perceived positive emotional intensity. Over the course of infant smiles, degree of smile strength varied with degree of eye constriction (cheek raising, the Duchenne marker), which varied with degree of mouth opening. In a series of three rating studies, automated measurements of smile strength and mouth opening predicted naïve (undergraduate) observers’ continuous ratings of video clips of smile sequences, as well as naïve and experienced (parent) ratings of positive emotion in still images from the sequences. An a priori measure of smile intensity combining anatomically based manual coding of both smile strength and mouth opening predicted positive emotion ratings of the still images. The findings indicate the potential of automated and fine-grained manual measurements of facial actions to describe the course of emotional expressions over time and to predict perceptions of emotional intensity.


Facial expression Emotion Infant Automated measurement Facial action coding system Perceived emotion intensity Smiling 



The authors thank J.D. Haltigan, Ioana Berbecaru, Laura Hamilton, Matthew Edmundson, and the families and raters who participated in this research. The research was supported by NICHD 41619 & 052062, NSF 0418400, NIMH 051435, and the Positive Psychology Network.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel S. Messinger
    • 1
  • Tricia D. Cassel
    • 1
  • Susan I. Acosta
    • 1
  • Zara Ambadar
    • 2
  • Jeffrey F. Cohn
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  2. 2.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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