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Facial Recognition and Early Childhood Development

A defining moment in my life was caught on camera; it was the moment my new-born son first stared contemplatively at my face, and I his. I realized he was filing away for the rest of his life, who this person holding him was, his entire world, if for a short time: MOTHER. That primitive bond of nurture, protection and comfort would come from this image now implanted in his brain.

On a recent radio appearance I discussed how mask mandates and universal compliance may be affecting early childhood development, now that this crucial sensory input has been drastically reduced. I recall while in college watching footage of a psychology experiment testing how a baby would react if its mother did not mirror her baby's attempt at communication using his facial expressions. The mother, holding her baby, immediately responded to the infant's smile by smiling back. The baby responded with joy and then would smile again, even more animated. The next time the baby would seek such a response, the mother gave none, her face remaining stoic, unsmiling, neutral. The baby appeared perplexed, and tried again with the same result. The baby ended up showing signs of distress and then cried. Often mothers and their newborns stay in hospitals after surgical deliveries, for up to 5 days, absent further complications. Some babies remain in the hospital much longer, especially when born prematurely. For that time they will exist in a faceless world at a time when crucial neurological connections are forming.

Young children are now forced to attend school with their and their teachers' faces covered, eliminating the ability to look to facial expressions to learn non-verbal communication skills. Other crucial non-verbal cues come from touching, and that, too, has been removed thanks to the new mantra of engineered behavior, “social distancing” requirements.

The same day we discussed this issue on the air, I went grocery shopping, and I was one of two adults in the store not wearing a mask. As I turned down an aisle, a young girl, about 12 months old, old saw me and immediately focused on me, staring, giving that tentative smile reminiscent from the experiment I mentioned. I smiled back and received the response I expected, and her smile turned to giggles when I talked to her. The experience gave me joy and sadness at the same time, because I realized that baby was probably seeking this knowledge, this feedback, even from strangers, learning faces and cues. Knowing that sensory input was being denied her was disheartening.

Imagine what a generation of children raised without this social input will be like. Clearly, it is too soon to tell, but how does one learn to see in a world of darkness? To hear in a world of silence? Yes, the blind and deaf compensate, and we know that. What I want to know is what behaviors will compensate for this lack of social learning from the beginning?

I am sad for these children, but even more, I fear the detachment for humanity resulting from this dystopian nightmare. Societal folkways and mores have been turned upside down . The past 9 months have shown us the cruelty governments are capable of in order to “prevent the spread of Covid-19.” What these future “leaders” may be capable of is frightening, tragic, and entirely preventable.

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