Our Instinct to Interact with a Baby

Nothing seems to move us quite like a little baby’s face, even if it is simply a photo of a baby. Researchers have discovered exactly why. what: our brains activate areas responsible for empathetic caregiving–to move, speak, and be of service. 

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recently announced concrete evidence for a natural impulse in adult men and women to physically and verbally respond to an infant. Observing the brain activity of adults, who were unrelated to the child, found activation in areas responsible for speech and movement. These results occurred simply by showing the adults an image of a baby’s face. Researchers ran these tests on the adults as they were still. When doing so, their brains reacted in preparation for interaction, and it also excited the brain circuits related to feelings of empathy, attachment, and reward. This appears to be an embedded or hardwired biological impulse. These results were found to be confined to images of infants. Pictures of other adults or animals did not trigger a similar brain pattern. Given this predisposition, it is no wonder that picking up an infant and dancing with them seems so natural. For more on this story see the academic paper in the journal NeuroImage; and for a synopsis: