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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Still Face Experiment

As a part of her lecture on YouTube promoting a March 31 to April 2, 2011 Conference on Attachment at Eastern Mennonite University, Dr. Annmarie Early includes a video segment of an experiment based on the “Still Face Paradigm.” It is conducted by attachment theory researcher Dr. Edward Tronick, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the Chief of the Child Development Unit at its Children's Hospital.

In a segment about 30 minutes into the video Tronick has a mother interacting face-to-face with her six-month old. They are smiling, “talking,” making sounds together, and generally responding to each other in affectionate ways. On cue, the mother turns her head away, then back to the child, but this time with a totally blank stare. Mother goes from being highly animated and engaged to making  no sound and showing no facial expression whatsoever.

The child almost immediately initiates a series of actions designed to get back her mother’s attention. At first the child seems puzzled, then smiles winsomely at her mom. When this doesn't work she tries pointing, gesturing, making various noises, raising both hands, throwing herself back against her infant seat, and finally gives a loud shriek of desperation as if calling for emergency help. The infant then cries inconsolably to tell the world how awfully distressed she is.

This two-minute clip vividly illustrates how important parents’ interactions are with their children at a very early age. Dr. Tronick’s continuing research demonstrates the importance of going back and repairing ruptures that occur in our everyday interactions. These same patterns of rupture and repair happen throughout the lifespan, he says, and our capacity to repair with our significant others--children and adults alike--makes all the difference between security and insecurity in our relationships.

Incidentally, Annmarie Early is to be the keynote speaker at the Family Life Resource Center's annual Spring Fundraiser Banquet held at 6 pm Saturday, May 14, at the Virginia Retirement Community's Hartman Dining Room. Dr. Early's topic is "Secure Relationships: Strengthening Our Connections Within, With God And With Others."

Annmarie is an engaging and down to earth speaker who uses stories and illustrations to emphasize the importance of our being truly there for each other when we are needed.

Attendance at FLRC's spring fundraiser banquets has been on the increase, so early registration is encouraged, at 540-432-8450 or at services@flrc.org. The Center (where I work) hopes to raise $12,000 to help us continue to provide services to people regardless of their ability to pay.

We just hope you won't respond to this invitation with a blank stare :-).
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