As babies, we are natural experts in body language. In order to survive and thrive, it is essential that babies mirror, develop, and understand body language while interacting and communicating with caregivers.
Mirror neurons are found in the Broca’s area of the frontal cortex and help babies imitate the facial expressions, motor muscle control, and body language of their caregivers. And through play and social interaction, babies learn about their environment; learn how to connect, bond, and build trust with caregivers; and then begin to develop the neurological, emotional, linguistic, and empathetic foundations for healthy sense of selves.
Edward Tronick, Ph.D, Director of Child Development at Harvard University shows the importance of this social interaction on babies in his Still Face Experiment and research:
The baby in the video enjoys playful interaction with her mother. However, after just a few seconds of “Still Face” mother not providing the social interaction desired or expected, the baby became confused, frustrated, and distressed. Just imagine how baby development may be negatively affected if “Still Face” parent continued for weeks, months, or even years.
As we increase mastery of verbal language, we then start to decrease the reliance of our initial language…body language. This shift is unfortunate because words contribute only about 7% of total communication with the remaining 93% attributable to body and paralanguage. In addition, verbal language is often considered as auditory sounds, but verbal language is actually possible because of motor ability and muscle control.