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Infant Crying: Pattern of Weeping, Recognition of Emotion and Affective Reactions in Observers

  • Mariano Chóliz (a1), Enrique G. Fernández-Abascal (a2) and Francisco Martínez-Sánchez (a3)


This study has three objectives: a) to describe the main differences in the crying patterns produced by the three affective states most closely related to crying: fear, anger and pain; b) to study the adults' accuracy in the recognition of the affective states related to the infant's crying, and c) to analyze the emotional reaction that infant crying elicits in the observers. Results reveal that the main differences appear in the ocular activity and in the pattern of weeping. The infants maintain their eyes open during the crying produced by fear and anger, but in the case of crying provoked by painful stimuli, the eyes remain closed almost all the time. In regard to the pattern of weeping, the crying gradually increase in the case of anger, but the weeping reaches its maximum intensity practically from the beginning in the case of pain and fear. In spite of these differences, it is not easy to know the cause that produces crying in infants, especially in the case of fear or anger. Although observers can't recognize the cause of crying, the emotional reaction is greater when the baby cries in pain than when the baby cries because of fear or anger.

Este trabajo tiene tres objetivos: a) describir las diferencias en el patrón de llanto provocado por tres emociones características del llanto: miedo, enfado y dolor; b) estudiar el grado de precisión que tienen los adultos para reconocer la emoción que ha provocado el llanto y c) analizar la reacción afectiva de los observadores ante el llanto de los bebés. Los resultados obtenidos ponen de manifiesto que las principales diferencias se presentan en la actividad ocular y en la dinámica del llanto. Así, cuando los bebés lloran a causa del enfado, o por miedo, permanecen con los ojos abiertos, mientras que los mantienen cerrados durante todo el tiempo en el caso del dolor. En lo que se refiere a la dinámica del llanto, la intensidad se va incrementando gradualmente en el caso del enfado, mientras que aparece en su máxima intensidad desde el primer momento en el caso del dolor y del miedo. Pese a ello, no es fácil reconocer qué emoción es la que está provocando el llanto, especialmente con el enfado y miedo. Sin embargo, aunque no sepan reconocer la causa del llanto, el dolor provoca una reacción afectiva más intensa en los adultos que el enfado o miedo.


Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mariano Chóliz. Departamento de Psicología Básica, Universidad de Valencia. Blasco Ibáñez, 21. 46010-Valencia (Spain). Phone: +34-963864853. Fax: +34-963864822. E-mail:


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