Still Face Experiment: Nonverbal communication and its absence?

I’m attending a trauma education seminar today where Dr. Sandra Bloom is teaching. Dr. Bloom has developed the Sanctuary Model of trauma recovery and care. There have been a number of very helpful ideas discussed and I hope to get them out to you in due course. However, I want to share with you all this interesting and short YouTube video (link here:

Watch it and let me know your reaction to the still face experiment. What do you notice the baby trying to do?


Filed under counseling science, Family, parenting

3 responses to “Still Face Experiment: Nonverbal communication and its absence?

  1. Ymay Ogblay

    I found it interesting that the baby first tried a positive approach — smiling and being playful — and became progressively more agitated in trying to get his mom’s attention as time passed. Obviously, mass, long-term experimentation on babies wouldn’t be a good idea, but I am curious how quickly babies learn to first try whatever behavior seems to work on his particular parents to get the response they want. For example, I’d suspect that babies who can’t get their parents’ attention by being happy and playful would learn to start with whining, or crying, or whatever their parents will respond to.

    • D. Stevenson

      This baby had a repertoire to draw from to get the mother’s attention. I wonder about the baby who hasn’t experienced interaction. Do they become screamers, fretful? Do they shut down their emotions? Answers to these questions are probably found in studies of children who spent their early years in poverty-stricken orphanages. I’ve read a bit about (RAD) Reactive Attachment Disorder, not much.

      One time while food shopping, I observed a baby in an infant seat in the cart gazing up with adoration at the mother. The mother was oblivious, not looking towards the child at all. I saw the child attempting to catch the mother’s eye and ‘coo’ and the mother didn’t look. I drew the mother’s attention to her child, rather, I attempted. I hope the apathy I observed of this mother towards her child was an aberration. I hope the fact that the child was attempting to engage the mother showed that the mother doesn’t always ignore the child. It hurt me to see it.

  2. Jess

    That was hard to watch, even for such a short period of time. I wondered if the baby was seeking physical contact when she reached out both arms. She was harnessed into her seat, but she may have been wanting and asking for a hug. I’ve also seen babies “push” an adult’s face into a smile and if she could have reached her mom, she may have tried something like that. It was also interesting to see that by the end of even that brief time, the mother was obviously distressed also.

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