Facial Expressions Develop in the Womb

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Credit: Nadja Reissland

Facial Expressions Develop in the Womb

Before heِ or sheِ isِ born, a fetus begins toِ move hisِ or herِ face — parting lips, wrinkling a nose orِ lowering a brow forِ exampleِ — making movements that, whenِ combined, willِ oneِ day assemble expressions weِ allِ recognize inِ one another.
A newِ study hasِ shown that, asِ the fetus develops, theseِ facial motions becomeِ increasingly complex.
By capturing images ofِ two fetuses periodically fromِ 24 toِ aboutِ 35 weeks ofِ gestation, theِ researchers watched individual, unrelated movements progress toِ complex combinations, associatedِ with recognizable facial expressions.

Reissland pointed out that these facial movements don’t mean the fetuses were experiencing emotion.

We canِ see theِ expressions whichِ weِ canِ recognize; weِ can’tِ say whetherِ theِ fetus hasِ emotion, sheِ said.
They don’t] haveِ yet theِ cognition necessaryِ to haveِ the emotions.
Smiles Are Innate, Not Learned] Rather, theseِ motions areِ likely a form ofِ practice, asِ the fetuses prepare toِ enter theِ social world, whereِ theyِ mustِ form bonds withِ others.