Friday, March 21, 2008

How babies make it easy

It’s always great to be proved right by a scientist. So here’s to Morten Kringelbach, a Senior Research Fellow in Psychiatry at Oxford University who has proved what anyone who has ever held a baby already knows: babies are hard wired into our hearts.

My recent re-introduction to the art of holding a baby and speaking in that strange language adults save for the small was an instant delight, so Dr Kringelbach’s research was an affirmation rather than a revelation. By flashing pictures of the faces of adults and of babies for just 300 milliseconds, Kringelbach’s team recorded distinct differences in the way people responded to the two kinds of faces. And it’s not just whether we come up with baby talk or a request for a hamburger. They discovered that the physical place that is stimulated in our brain is different. When we look at adult faces, the response comes from the back of the brain; when we look at a baby’s face we respond from a part of the brain that is just over the eyeball region. Guess what part of the brain that is? You’ve got it, Sherlock. The emotional part. Morten goes on to suggest that this explains why many men prefer women with baby faces, but let’s follow him there. Maybe Morten Kringelbach has never held a baby in his arms without a stopwatch in hand. I reckon it would have taken him less than 300 milliseconds to figure it’s an emotional thing.