Self-Recognition and Embarrassment

Self-Recognition and Embarrassment

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Self-Recognition and Embarrassment

     Our group’s task was to measure self-recognition and embarrassment in children ages 1-3. We had 3 children to work with, Arika was 9 months, Charlotte was 17 months and Lydia was 28 months old. We preformed 3 tasks on these children. The first was the “Overcompliment situation”. Secondly, we did the “Mirror situation” and last we did the “Request to dance situation”. Our findings in these situations lead us to some conclusions about self-awareness and feeling embarrassed.
     The procedure we used was a fairly simple one, but it needed to be followed to get accurate results. The first task we did was the Overcompliment situation. With the hidden video camera running, we played with the children for a few minutes so they could get as used to us as they would in that short period of time. Then we proceeded to give them compliment after compliment, for example; “you are so pretty”, “good job”, “you’re doing great”. After doing this you should feel a little embarrassed yourself. This task is used to see how the child reacts to the barrage of compliments. If they keep playing as they were, make eye contact periodically, they most likely weren’t embarrassed. But if they keep their head down away from the experimenter or have a silly, self-conscious smile they probably are embarrassed. Our first Overcompliment experiment was with Charlotte. She showed no reaction to Kellie giving her numerous compliments; she just played without even looking at her. This does not necessarily mean that Charlotte had no feelings about Kellie’s compliments; in fact it probably means that she was more embarrassed than anything. When it was Lydia’s turn to go Mia and I watched her play for a few minutes, then began the onslaught of compliments. Lydia didn’t even acknowledge the fact that we were speaking to her. I think she did realize that we were saying how good she was doing and because of that she played more aggressively. She never looked at either of us, she never looked to her mother for comfort or to see why these people were saying these things to her, she just kept playing with her trains.
Table 1
Age in months     Reaction
21-24     ¾ of all children
20     It was common, but not expected
15-18     ¼ of all children
9-12     No children reacted
     The second task was the mirror situation. This experiment was first done by R. Amsterdam in 1972 on Chimpanzees.

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Later, Gordon Gallup repeated this experiment on toddlers. According to Gordon Gallup, as you can see in table 1, by the age of 21 months old most children and at the age of 12 months no children recognized themselves in the mirror (DeHart, Sroufe and Cooper 2000). In this experiment we had mothers place their child in front of a mirror, call the child’s attention to their reflection, and ask, “Who’s that?” It is said that if she child responds with “Me” or their name they can tell it is themselves in the mirror. Repeat if it is necessary until you’re sure the child has looked in the mirror even if they can’t recognize themselves. After the child has clearly seen the reflection in the mirror, the mother subtly puts some red lipstick on the child’s nose. After the lipstick was on, the child was placed back in front of the mirror and their attention was called to the reflection again. If the child reaches and touches the mirror or they don’t touch anything at all it means that they didn’t have any self-recognition of themselves in the mirror. If they do touch their nose it’s said that they do have self-recognition. In our video labs for this procedure we found varying results with the children. Arika stayed close to her mother as much as she could. When shown her reflection by her mother she kept touching the mirror but not in a pointing to herself way, I think she was just exploring. After the lipstick was placed on her nose she looked unhappy. Although she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror she didn’t seem happy with the situation. This reaction shows us that Arika doesn’t really have a sense of self yet. When Charlotte was in the mirror situation her mother forgot to show Charlotte her reflection in the mirror without the lipstick so the experiment was a little off. When shown herself, Charlotte seemed confused, she looked behind the mirror. She never touched her nose or the mirror image; she just stood and looked into the mirror. One thing about Charlotte’s experiment was that she had a toy in her mouth and hand all the time. Her having the toy could have distracted her or made her not interested in the experiment or what anyone was saying. Lydia being the oldest, well over 2 years of age, we expected to be able to be able to identify herself in the mirror and recognize her own nose had lipstick on it. When shown herself in the mirror and asked, “who is that?” by her mother, Lydia was able to point to herself. After her mother pretended to wipe her nose and put the lipstick on it Lydia’s body language became kind of sluggish. Her head was down, shoulders shrugged and facing her mother she touched her nose with an odd look on her face, then went to her to fix it. From Arika, Charlotte and then Lydia with increasing age we saw increasing ability to identify themselves in the mirror and realize that something was on their nose.
     Our last experiment with each child was the request to dance situation. For his situation we played a tape of children’s music. First the mother tried to get the child to dance by whatever means she felt necessary, she could ask her child to dance or dance with the child. After a while of the mother attempting to get the child to dance each of us tried to get the children in our lab to dance too. The goal of this task was not to try and get the child to dance, but to see if the child was embarrassed about dancing in front of people, especially people they didn’t know. When Arika was asked to dance by her mother she was reluctant. Although the plan was to have the mother try to get her to dance and then the experimenters, it turned into all three of them cheering her on. The only times she danced were when she was holding onto her mother’s shirt and saw other people dancing (or bouncing). She may not have actually been dancing, I think she may have been reacting to the people in the rooms laughing, smiling, and making high-pitch noises. When Charlotte did this experiment I was not surprised at the results she gave. When the experimenters (Heather and Nichole) asked her to dance they got the same response as her mother did, nothing. Charlotte, whether it was because she was embarrassed, distracted with her toy again, was tired or jus didn’t like the tape, wouldn’t dance. I doubt it was because she was embarrassed because she had no reactions to the mirror or overcompliment situations. When Lydia was asked to dance she had a much different reaction that the other two children did. It took a second to get her going, but after her mother asked her to dance two or three times she started and didn’t stop until she was forced to (or got too dizzy). She had no problem and wasn’t embarrassed at all. When it was time for Mia and I to ask her to dance she didn’t stop long enough to ask her. She kept going and going. I found this odd because in the mirror situation she seemed quite embarrassed. The only things that got Lydia to stop dancing was a fire alarm that went off right at the end of Mia and I experimenting with Lydia. I don’t think the fire alarm had and affect on the experiments, but the only real way to tell is to do them again and see if there is a difference.
      Although it is reported that children will act and respond to things a certain way, we all know that there are always exceptions. Some kids develop faster than others and some slower. There is no perfect study that is universal for all children, but there are general rules that can be applied to groups of children. In this particular study, I found that Gordon Gallup’s findings were correct. Arika, the nine month old in our study showed no recollection of herself in the mirror like Gallup said. Charlotte, the seventeen month old was not able to recognize herself and Gallup reported that only ¼ of all 15-18 month old children do. And Lydia, the 28 month old was able to recognize herself and recognize that she has a red mark on her nose. All of these children develop differently as do all the other children in the world. Although children develop differently generalizations can be made about children’s progression.

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