Pupil responses to dynamic negative facial expressions of emotion in infants and parents

Evin Aktar, Cosima A. Nimphy, Mariska E. Kret, Koraly Pérez-Edgar, Susan M. Bögels, Maartje E.J. Raijmakers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Observing others’ emotions triggers physiological arousal in infants as well as in adults, reflected in dilated pupil sizes. This study is the first to examine parents’ and infants’ pupil responses to dynamic negative emotional facial expressions. Moreover, the links between pupil responses and negative emotional dispositions were explored among infants and parents. Infants’ and one of their parent's pupil responses to negative versus neutral faces were measured via eye tracking in 222 infants (5- to 7-month-olds, n = 77, 11- to 13-month-olds, n = 78, and 17- to 19-month-olds, n = 67) and 229 parents. One parent contributed to the pupil data, whereas both parents were invited to fill in questionnaires on their own and their infant's negative emotional dispositions. Infants did not differentially respond to negative expressions, while parents showed stronger pupil responses to negative versus neutral expressions. There was a positive association between infants' and their parent's mean pupil responses and significant links between mothers’ and fathers’ stress levels and their infants’ pupil responses. We conclude that a direct association between pupil responses in parents and offspring is observable already in infancy in typical development. Stress in parents is related to their infants’ pupillary arousal to negative emotions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22190
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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