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Department of Psychology Gartstein Temperament Lab

Babies Documentary is Out!

Babies Documentary is Out!

From first breath to first steps, witness the magic and explore the mystery of the first year of life. The second part of Babies on Netflix is out now! Our lab was visited in April 2019 and recorded an episode for the show! Be on the lookout for the next launch of the series and learn more about how babies develop! Watch Babies, now streaming only on Netflix!

Psychology Today: Becoming You

Psychology Today: Becoming You

In the Psychology Today blog series “Becoming You: How early life builds the foundation for everything to come,” Dr. Maria Gartstein discusses topics of:


Inside Industry with IREO: Maria Garstein

Inside Industry with IREO: Maria Garstein

“Excerpt from November 2020 podcast:

Episode 6: Maria (Masha) Garstein

Inside Industry with IREO is joined by Maria Gartstein a psychology professor and Head of the Gartstein Temperament Lab here at WSU. Maria was recently featured in the Netflix documentary “Babies” for her studies in infant temperament studies.”
In this podcast Maria discusses:

  • The Netflix documentary “Babies”
  • The “nuts and bolts” of running the lab
  • Student involvement
  • Connections to the industry

The Impacts of the Microbiome, Genetics, Parenting & Culture on Children’s Behavior

The Impacts of the Microbiome, Genetics, Parenting & Culture on Children’s Behavior

Excerpt from the January 5th, 2021 Insider Mom Podcast:

Does culture determine whether or not our kids become introverts or extroverts? What makes some babies and kids more prone to fussiness while others are more calm? Also, can we positively influence our children’s behavior or is temperament primarily genetic?

Maria (Masha) Gartstein is a professor in the Washington State University Department of Psychology and the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Director. Masha and her collaborators’ research has focused on the role that parenting plays in how temperament “comes online” in early childhood. Their work is the subject of an episode in the Netflix documentary “Babies” filmed at the Gartstein Temperament Laboratory.

In this interview she answers some of the above questions and also discusses findings on the impacts of the microbiome, genetics, epigenetics, parenting and culture on children’s temperament.

She also talks about:

– Her childhood growing up

– The impacts of stress during pregnancy

– Difficulties and challenges women researchers and faculty face when they become mothers

– Individualism vs. collectivism and how what’s valued in each culture influences our childrens’ behavior

– The Frozen II motto she lives by

If you’re interested in learning about her fascinating research, make sure to tune into this episode.

Website link:

Russians Don’t Smile Much, But That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Like You

Russians don’t smile much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you

Excerpt from Washington Post Article June 2018:

In the lead-up to the World Cup, articles appeared noting that Russian workers were being taught how to properly smile at the foreign soccer fans who would soon be visiting their country.

One of us – Masha – is a Russian immigrant. She’ll be quick to tell you that in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect.

Of course, in the U.S. and many other countries, smiling is a common, reflexive gesture of goodwill.

There is, indeed, truth to the “smiling gap”: In our psychology research, we’ve noticed a striking difference in how often people smile in the United States when compared to Russia. To Americans, it might be easy to assume that this says something about Russians – that they’re an unfriendly, callous people.

But that’s not the case at all. Instead, it’s worth looking at why certain expressions, like smiling, become a key part of social exchanges in some cultures and not others.

As far as we can tell, there are two likely explanations for the smiling gap: how people in different cultures communicate with one another and cross-cultural differences in personality or temperament.


How U.S. Babies Behave Differently From Infants in Other Cultures – HUFFPO

How U.S. Babies Behave Differently From Infants in Other Cultures – HUFFPO

Excerpt from Huffington Post Article January 2017:

Babies are comfortable expressing negative moods, while American babies are particularly active and social. That’s because the values and norms of your culture shape the person you’ll become from a young age, scientists believe.

And the earliest, and likely the most lasting, of these cultural influences comes from ― you guessed it ― your parents.

During the five years she spent studying babies around the world, Washington State University psychologist Dr. Maria Gartstein made some striking observations of how parents’ different cultural values influenced the temperaments and behavior of their babies. These temperamental patterns could set the stage for mental health or illness down the road.

Gartstein and her colleagues conducted a cross-cultural examination of the behavior of Chilean, Polish, South Korean and American babies, the results of which were recently published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology. The mothers of 125 to 420 babies in each country were asked to fill out observations of more than 200 behaviors and temperamental qualities in their infants at 6 months and 1 year old, including activity level, shyness, sadness, cuddliness and attention focusing.

The results showed significant parenting differences across these four cultures. American babies, for instance, were more social and impulsive than babies from the other countries, and they were also the most likely to enjoy highly stimulating activities.

“[American babies] have some unique opportunities and challenges, compared to infants growing up in other regions of the world,” Gartstein said. “I really appreciate their readiness to engage and share enjoyment ― the baby version of extraversion, if you will.”

American mothers also reported that their babies were less likely to display negative emotions, and are easy to soothe when upset. This behavior may result from parents discouraging their children from expressing negative emotions.

The other babies, however, acted very differently. In fact, Garstein says that she was taken aback by the extent of the behavioral differences seen across cultures.

“One of my more profound moments occurred when I realized that parent-infant interaction dynamics varied dramatically, even in cultures we think of as being similar,” Gartstein told The Huffington Post.

U.S. Babies are more social than other kids – TIME

U.S. Babies are more social than other kids – TIME

Babies born in the United States are more social and impulsive than those from some other countries, outlines a recent publication authored by Dr. Masha Gartstein.

East–west, collectivist-individualist: A cross-cultural examination of temperament in toddlers from Chile, Poland, South Korea, and the U.S.“, published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, Oct 2016 – shows US kids are also, according to their moms, more likely to enjoy highly stimulating activities, less likely to be unhappy or angry and are easier to comfort when they do get upset.

Dutch babies smile more than US peers

Dutch babies smile more than US peers

A study by Gartstein et al in 2015 examined temperamental differences between U.S. and Dutch babies – and found infants born in the Netherlands are more likely to be happy and easier to soothe in the latter half of their first year. U.S. infants, on the other hand, were typically more active and vocal, said study co-author Maria Gartstein, a Washington State University associate professor of psychology.

The results of the study, published in the January 2015 print edition of the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, in many ways reflect American and Dutch parents’ unique cultural values, Gartstein said.

U.S. parents often emphasize the importance of stimulation, exposing their children to a wide variety of new experiences to promote independence, a cultural ideal. Parents in Holland are more likely to incorporate children into daily activities at home, placing strong value on the importance of rest and regularity.

A greater understanding of these values and the impact they have on an infant’s temperament will help psychologists fine-tune ways to prevent infant temperament issues from becoming behavioral problems later in life.