CLOSE
Original image
iStock

Babies Are Trying to Manipulate You Into Smiling at Them

Original image
iStock

Babies are more clever than we give them credit for. They’re secretly manipulating us into beaming joyfully at them! 

According to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE, infants begin timing their facial expressions to garner smiles from their mothers by just four months of age. How did researchers figure this out? They created a creepy baby robot. 

To get at the root motivations of a baby’s smiles, the researchers first brought 13 mothers and their babies into the lab to observe how they interacted. They found that babies used “sophisticated timing” to ensure that their mother spent a maximum amount of time smiling at them, but the babies didn’t necessarily want to be smiling back—they seemed to time their smiles (often only a second long) so that their mother would smile at them for the longest amount of time, not so that they would both be smiling at each other.  

Image Credit: Ruvolo et al. ,PLOS ONE (2015)

In order to prove this hypothesis, the researchers then programmed a robot child, Diego-San, to smile in the same patterns as the real infants in the study. The mother substitutes, in this case, were 32 undergraduate students who interacted with the creepy creation. Each student interacted with the robot in a series of four three-minute periods, during which the robot smiled in different configurations (sometimes it mimicked the smile observation data from the infants, sometimes it mirrored the person’s expression, and sometimes it smiled in a pattern that had nothing to do with the person’s facial expressions).

They found that the undergraduates “appeared to have similar preferences to the ones we had previously found in mothers: they rated their experience with the robot more positively when the robot simultaneously smiled with them.” And when the robot mimicked the observed infant behavior, it had the intended effect that the researchers believed babies were looking for—it maximized the amount of time the “mother” spent as the only one smiling. 

The researchers don’t argue that babies are conscious of this behavior. And it’s not entirely clear what the purpose is. Perhaps babies want the positive attention of a smile, and learn that if they smile, their mother will—but once their mom beams, the baby has what she wants and no longer needs to smile herself. Or it may be something else. Bring more smiley babies to the lab, stat!

[h/t: IEEE Spectrum]

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
27 Trendy Baby Names From the Future According to a Neural Network
Original image
iStock

Every generation has its trendy baby names.

If you were born in 1925, chances are good that your parents named you something like Betty, Joan, Billy, or Gene. If you were born in 2005, you’re a lot more likely to be an Addison or an Aiden. And in a few decades? You might be naming your kid Nitnis. (That is, if we aren’t all named Zenon.)

As Co.Design reports, developer and designer Nate Parrott created a neural network with the sole purpose of coming up with new names. He trained it on 7500 American names, translating each name into a mathematical representation that could be tweaked by an algorithm to create new names.

He used the algorithm to generate a random sample of new names from this list of 7500 names, coming up with some plausible new ideas for soon-to-be parents. Mannie? Rusert? Halden? Not all that crazy. However, the algorithm did come up with some ideas that might not catch on soon, like “P” or “Suttttuuyy.”

Do you see your future progeny’s name in here?

  • Pruliaa
  • Miiirilid
  • Herree
  • Chitoi
  • Deredrd
  • Aaaort
  • Nitnis
  • Aloora
  • Cerreleaa
  • Chhzzu
  • Aradey
  • Rarear
  • Jnnn
  • Mannie
  • Seeleere
  • Auntt
  • Foro
  • Tstilit
  • Lorra
  • Hhrsrrrrrr
  • Seina
  • Suttttuuyy
  • Rusert
  • P
  • Sauenta
  • Ralieh
  • Halden

Dive deeper into the process and the code in Parrott’s blog post.

[h/t Co.Design]

Original image
Getty Images
arrow
History
6 Children Who Famously Followed in Their Parents' Footsteps
Original image
Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt often brought his eldest son, Theodore, Jr., to work with him. Likewise with Jim Henson and his son, Brian. Marie Curie? Not so much. To celebrate "Take Your Child to Work Day," we look at several famous instances of children following the path set forth by their mother or father, and who may or may not have regularly accompanied them to the office, the lab, or the battlefield.

1. VESPASIAN AND TITUS

From humble beginnings, Vespasian rose to the rank of general and eventually Emperor of Rome, a title he held from 69 CE until his death in 79 CE. He had two sons but was particularly close to his eldest, Titus, who served as prefect of the Praetorian Guard under his father. Vespasian involved his son in many of his decisions as emperor, and after he died Titus took the throne, becoming the first son to directly succeed his biological father as Emperor of Rome. Among the numerous pieces of his father’s legacy that Titus cemented was the Colosseum, which Vespasian began constructing in 70 CE and which his son finished the year after his death.

2. MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND MARY SHELLEY

Getty Images

Raised by an abusive father, Mary Wollstonecraft took refuge in her work as a writer and translator. She became a renowned feminist, and in 1792 published her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which stirred up considerable controversy for its assertion that women deserved a proper education. In 1797, she gave birth to her second daughter, Mary, and died 11 days later due to complications. Although she never knew her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin—who became Mary Shelley after marrying the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816—inherited her gift for writing, and at age 20, she published Frankenstein.

3. MARIE CURIE AND IRÈNE JOLIOT-CURIE

Irène Joliot-Curie and Marie Curie, circa 1925. CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With three Nobel prizes between them, Marie Curie and her daughter Irène were pioneering scientists whose work revolutionized our understanding of radioactivity. Born in Poland, Marie Curie attended the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris and went on to, along with her husband Pierre, discover radium and polonium. The birth of Irène in 1897 didn’t slow the husband-wife team down, and in time Marie and Irène would work closely together. During World War I, mother and daughter operated mobile x-ray units that came to be known as "Petite Curies." Irène’s work built upon her parents’ research, and in 1935 she and her husband received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for artificially creating a radioactive element. Both women likely died due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

4. THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THEODORE ROOSEVELT JR.

Getty Images // Wikimedia Commons

The 26th president and former Rough Rider instilled in his eldest son an appreciation for military history and battlefield heroism. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., or "Ted" as he was commonly known, proved his mettle as a major during World War I, where he fought in several battles and was wounded in France. After the war, he assumed a political career but reentered the military in the lead-up to World War II. Given the rank of Brigadier General, he lobbied his division commander to accompany troops during the D-Day invasion. At age 56, walking with the aid of a cane and carrying a heart condition he hadn’t disclosed, Roosevelt Jr. was among the first soldiers to step foot on Utah Beach. Nearly a mile off course, he orchestrated a modified attack from the new position, calmly directing landing units as enemy fire rained down on their position. Roosevelt Jr. survived D-Day, but died of a heart attack weeks later. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, and years later, Theodore Roosevelt would also be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, making the Roosevelts one of only two father-son pairs of recipients.

5. ZULFIKAR AND BENAZIR BHUTTO

Benazir Bhutto stands in front of a portrait of her father, Zulfikar Bhutto, circa 1993. Getty

Zulfikar Bhutto founded the Pakistan People’s Party and from 1971 to 1977 served first as the country’s president and then as the prime minister. Following a military coup, he was executed in 1979 and his daughter, Benazir, who had just returned home after attending college in the west, was placed under house arrest. Benazir inherited leadership of the PPP and, after years of careful maneuvering, became Pakistan’s prime minister in 1988—the first female prime minister of a majority Muslim nation. Benazir Bhutto served just two years, followed by another stint in the '90s, all the while battling corruption charges brought by her opponents. In 2007, while attempting to mount another comeback, she was killed by a shooter/suicide bomber in Rawalpindi.

6. JIM AND BRIAN HENSON

Getty Images

The younger Henson began appearing on television when he was just 6 years old. That’s when he appeared in the very first episode of Sesame Street, the iconic show that Jim Henson helped bring to life. At 14, Brian created puppets that his father used on The Muppet Show, and at 16 the elder Henson hired him as a puppeteer on 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper. Brian’s big break came in 1986 when his father named him one of the "puppeteers" (and voice) for the dwarf Hoggle in Labyrinth. After his father’s tragic death in 1990, Brian Henson went on to produce and direct TV shows and films, including A Muppet Christmas Carol and Farscape, and today is chairman of The Jim Henson Company.

SECTIONS

arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
More from mental floss studios