Babies are born with the propensity to seek out interpersonal contact and to slowly learn to make sense of the ebb and flow of social life. Babies learn to recognize faces and facial expressions, to take turns in a kind of proto-conversation, and to read intention and meaning in the behavior of others. By four to six months, babies recognize discrete facial expressions in their caregivers. By about one year, they engage in social referencing. In other words, before they explore a new toy or approach a stranger, they look back at their mother to check her read on the situation. If the mother shows anxiety or fear, the baby will back off. If the mother looks calm and confident, the baby will approach the new situation with interest.
This tiny baby is discovering a brand new world. Note her rapt attention and how well adapted she is for face to face interaction (iStock).