MATERNAL FACIAL MIRRORING AT FOUR MONTHS
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This descriptive study attempts an operational definition of the phenomenon of mirroring. The mirroring phenomenon is dissected in terms of the mutual facial engagement exchange, described as a function of the sequencing and timing of the two partners' behavior. Levels of mother and infant "engagement" are defined as particular coordinations of orientation, gaze and facial expression.;Frame-by-frame analysis of 16mm film examined three mother-daughter pairs at four months. Samples of three minutes of film per dyad were chosen on the basis of maximizing facial communication, engagement, and a range of affect. The data base consisted of two separate records of all engagement level changes of mother and infant respectively. The infant's data base was annotated by pairing each infant engagement change with the next following maternal engagement change, and the mother's data base was annotated by pairing each mother engagement change with the next following infant engagement change. This procedure yielded a series of one-step sequences from the leader's to the follower's act which can be coordinated into three different patterns of joint timing: a coactive episode (simultaneous) or nearly simultaneous: average onset 1/8 second after onset of partner's behavior); a noncoactive episode (no overlap between the two partners' behavior) and a solo (two acts emitted in a row, with no intervening act of the partner).;The results show that maternal imitation of the infant's exact expressions account for 5% of the data. When in the coactive mode, mother and infant (1) tracked the direction of the other's engagement level change and (2) elongated the duration of their facial changes. Only mothers fostered coaction; that is, in sequences where infants led and mothers followed, one coactive episode was followed by another.;The results of this study indicate that the model of imitation underlying the concept of maternal mirroring in both the psychoanalytic and infant-developmental literature is too static to encompass these findings. Maternal mirroring may be accurate insofar as it is the mother who fosters the coactive state, but it is "mutual directional mirroring" that captures the nearly simultaneous tracking of the other's direction of affect change.
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