Next Psych Department Colloquium – Fri 3/2 at 2 pm in Hauser 029

Dr. Debra Zeifman will give a talk entitled:  Developmental Changes in the Signal Value of Tears. For more information about the talk, read the abstract. For more information about Dr. Zeifman, read her biosketch.  All are welcome at the talk. Coffee and snacks will be served.

Abstract:  Emotional tears may be uniquely human and are an effective signal of distress in adults. The present research explored whether tears signal distress in younger criers and whether the effect of tears on observers is similar in magnitude across the life span.  Participants rated photographs of crying infants, young children, and adults, with tears digitally removed or added. The effectiveness of tears in conveying sadness and eliciting sympathy was greatest for images of adults, intermediate for images of children, and least potent for images of infants. These findings suggest that the signal value of tears varies with the age of the crier. The results may shed light on the functional significance of crying at different stages of human development.

Biographical sketch:  Debra Zeifman received Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University before joining the faculty of Vassar College. She teaches courses in Introductory Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Research Methods.  Dr. Zeifman’s primary research explores the psychological dynamics, biological underpinnings, and evolutionary history of close relationships (or attachments). In particular, her work has focused on the relationships between infants and their caregivers. This has included studies of caregiver perception of infant crying and the effect of caregivers’ response to crying on social and emotional development.


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