Children's perception of facial expressions
SourceDevelopmental Psychology, 57, 4, (2021), pp. 506-518
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI OLO
SubjectLearning and Plasticity
This study investigated the developing ability of children to identify emotional facial expressions in terms of the contexts in which they generally occur. We presented Dutch 6- to 9-year-old primary school children (N = 164, 98 girls) prototypical contexts for different emotion categories and asked them whether different kinds of facial expressions belonged to those contexts or not, using a 2-alternative forced-choice task. Correct and incorrect responses were quantified into a single index using signal detection theory, representing children's sensitivity to perceive each facial expression as categorically different from each of the others in terms of their prototypical contexts. Results show age-related improvements in identifying facial expressions as belonging to their prototypical contexts. In addition, we found that older children not only made less misidentifications but also misidentified less kinds of facial expressions to the prototypical contexts. Furthermore, the kinds of misidentifications children made suggest that they do not identify facial expressions based on their conceptual emotional valence. Results were discussed from a perceptual learning account.
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