Automated measurement of facial expression in infant - Mother interaction: A pilot study

Daniel S. Messinger, Mohammad H. Mahoor, Sy Miin Chow, Jeffrey F. Cohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Automated facial measurement using computer vision has the potential to objectively document continuous changes in behavior. To examine emotional expression and communication, we used automated measurements to quantify smile strength, eye constriction, and mouth opening in two 6-month-old infant-mother dyads who each engaged in a face-to-face interaction. Automated measurements showed high associations with anatomically based manual coding (concurrent validity); measurements of smiling showed high associations with mean ratings of positive emotion made by naive observers (construct validity). For both infants and mothers, smile strength and eye constriction (the Duchenne marker) were correlated over time, creating a continuous index of smile intensity. Infant and mother smile activity exhibited changing (nonstationary) local patterns of association, suggesting the dyadic repair and dissolution of states of affective synchrony. The study provides insights into the potential and limitations of automated measurement of facial action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-305
Number of pages21
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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