Reading and Responding to Social Signals
Tedra Walden Linda Knieps Vanderbilt University
Although some aspects of emotional development are thought to be general across cultures and specific rearing experiences and thus are sometimes said to be "innate" (e.g., recognition and categorization of facial expressions; Ekman, 1992; Izard, 1992), few would argue that even these aspects of emotional functioning develop without input from the social environment. It is now recognized that the child's early interactions with the social and physical environment contribute importantly to his or her emotional functioning and emotional development ( Walden & Garber, 1994). The adultinfant dyad is a mutually regulated system in which the infant and adult can assume reciprocal roles of initiator and responder. The balance of roles shifts over time, with the adult becoming less dominant as the child becomes more competent in initiating and sustaining interactions ( Bronfenbrenner, 1979).
In the past, it was common to regard emotions simply as internal, private feelings. Today's view of emotion has changed dramatically, with emotions now being described by some as "processes of establishing, maintaining, or disrupting the relations between the person and the internal or external environment, when such relations are significant to the individual" ( Campos, Campos, & Barrett, 1989, p. 395). Thus, emotion is seen as