There was recently a small study showing that when adults and babies make eye contact, their brain waves sync up. This “joint networked state”, as the researchers called it, helps information to transfer from the adult to the child during their early learning and steps to communication.
This mutual temporal alignment in the brain makes it easier for the infant to vocalize, or communicate, in longer and stronger quantities when their directly gazing at an adult. Researchers believe that when in an adult’s gaze, the child’s “neural synchronization” is amplified. This synchronization is how babies construct their first social connections.
Currently, we already know that adults communicate with each other better when they are in neural synchronization. This attributes to why our phone or text conversations are much more misunderstood than our face-to-face interactions. The direct eye contact when having a face-to-face conversation is what makes it easier for us comprehend and digest the information the other person is saying.
During the study, researchers showed seventeen children videos of adults singing nursery rhymes. In the first video, the adult singers were looking directly at the babies. In the second video, the adults weren’t looking at the babies at all. And finally in the third video, the adults had their head turned but their eyes were directed towards the child.
Researchers monitored the children’s brain wave patterns when watching the videos and compared the patterns created by the EEG to the patterns of the singing adults (whom had been recorded earlier). When the child could see the eyes of the singer, the two individual patterns matched more than when the adult had her head turned away or was looking away completely.
Although this was a relatively small study, the results were fascinating!