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If you thought your baby was smiling out of pure joy at the world around him, you were probably wrong. According to scientists and the scariest robot baby ever to crawl the Earth, babies only smile to get other people—like Mom or Dad—to smile back at them.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego recently released a study that says that moms and babies play "smile games"—and whereas the mom's intention is usually to get her baby to smile with her, the baby only smiles just long enough to get Mom to smile back. In other words, babies are timing their smiles only to get you to smile. And once you're smiling, they found the babies actually preferred that they themselves weren't smiling. Tricky little babies, right?
To further prove their theory, researchers used the help of a robotic child who was designed to mimic the facial expressions of a 1-year-old. Diego-San, as the super creepy robot is called, was partnered with 32 adults who pretended to be his caregiver and programmed to achieve maximum adult-only smiling. The results they observed were the same as between the real mother/child pairs. The study concludes that "infants exhibited sophisticated timing behaviors to achieve their goals."
Study co-author Dan Messinger tells the International Business Times, "What makes our study unique is that previous approaches to studying infant-parent interaction essentially describe patterns. Here, we find that infants have their own goals in the interaction, even before four months of age."
If you're really curious about how Diego-San works, here's a video to whet your appetite: