The development of children's ability to recognize facial emotion

Mount, Hazel Florence (1981). The development of children's ability to recognize facial emotion. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f75a

Abstract

This study investigated the development among 3 1/2 to 11 year old children of the ability to recognize six common emotions (Happiness, Disgust, Sadness, Anger, Surprise and Fear), using a procedure which employed six standard photographs (of male and female faces and of parts o f the female face) accompanied by illustrative short stories. Additionally,children's ability to match photographs on the basis of emotion expression was examined and compared with performance on the recognition task. The relationship between recognition of facial emotion and age, social class, sex, popularity with peers, extraversion and neuroticism, birth order and the presence or absence of siblings was also investigated.

Individual testing of children aged 3 1/2 to 6 was employed, and a procedure was developed for group testing of older children.

The results confirmed that accuracy of recognition of emotion increases with age. Social class differences emerged on recognition of emotion in the male and female face,and in parts of the face (excluding the nose). Only in recognition of emotion in eyes did girls perform more accurately than boys. Accuracy of recognition correlated significantly with popularity with peers except in judgments of emotion in the eyes. Extraversion was significantly correlated with accuracy of recognition of emotion in the female face and eyes. Presence or absence of siblings was not significantly related to emotion recognition, but later born children recognized emotion in noses more accurately than first born children.

It was also demonstrated that children's ability to match emotion expressions emerges before their ability to recognize the expressions. Analysis of errors showed that the pattern of errors made in emotion recognition was similar to that found in emotion recognition studies with adults. The errors in emotion matching reflected those found in recognition. However, there were also common confusions in matching which were found in emotion recognition by the younger children, but not among older children in the present study, or in the adult studies.

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