(national.deseretnews.com) – The real reason babies smile

When it comes to smiling, babies expect a little something in return — especially from mom and dad, according to a new study.

What do they seek? Newser reported babies beam to make others do the same and use “sophisticated timing” in the process.

According to U.S. News & World Report, researchers at the University of California, San Diego programmed a robot to act like a baby based on a previous study “that observed the face-to-face interactions of 13 pairs of mothers and infants younger than four months.” In that study, 11 of 13 babies showed signs of intentional smiling.

The researchers conducted the new study by designing the toddler robot to simulate how babies smile, and The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the machine interacted with UC San Diego students.

The baby-inspired bot, named Diego-San, did one thing frequently during the study, published in the journal PLOS One.

“Diego-San elicited lots of smiles, with little effort,” according to the Union-Tribune. “Students only seemed to tune out the robot when it smiled in a random, unnatural manner.”

The bottom line: Babies want to make those around them smile as much as possible, all “while smiling as little as possible,” The Times of India reported.

The Union-Tribune’s piece compared babies to comedians in this regard — exerting small effort to bring joy — and Javier Movellan, UC San Diego psychologist and lead researcher, said it’s all based on babies knowing what they want.

“I used to wonder if my daughter was trying to communicate with me when she was an infant and smiled,” Movellan said. “It might not have just been wishful thinking on my part. Babies are very goal-oriented.”

Babies also know how to usher in long-lasting grins, according to Newser.

Infants deploy “maximally efficient … wait times” between smiles because if they completely stop, the person they hope to incite joy in ceases also, the Newser report read. The robot’s interactions over the study’s course followed the same theory.

According to CTV News, study co-author Dan Messinger from the University of Miami said the new study helped researchers understand the baby-parent interaction in ways unknown before.

“What makes our study unique is that previous approaches to studying infant-parent interaction essentially describe patterns,” he said. “But we couldn’t say what the mother or infant is trying to obtain in the interaction. Here we find that infants have their own goals in the interaction, even before four months of age.”

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Payton Davis is the Deseret News National intern. Send him an email at pdavis@deseretdigital.com and follow him on Twitter, @Davis_DNN.

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