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The developmental course of children’s free-labeling responses to facial expressions

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Title: The developmental course of children’s free-labeling responses to facial expressions
Author: Widen, Sherrilea E.
Degree: Master of Arts - MA
Program: Psychology
Copyright Date: 1999
Subject Keywords Child psychology;Emotions in children;Facial expression;Categorization (Psychology) in children
Issue Date: 2009-06-29
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Abstract: The current study investigated the developmental course of how young children label various facial expressions of emotion. 160 children (2 to 5 years) freely produced labels for six prototypical facial expressions of emotion and six animals. Even 2-year-olds were able to correctly label 5 of 6 animals, but the proportion of correct specific emotion category responses for this age group was < .30 for each of the six facial expressions. The 5-year-olds' proportion of correct specific emotion category labels was at ceiling for the happy and angry faces, but significantly lower for each of the other four facial expressions, and at floor level for the disgust face. The type of errors in labeling facial expressions changed with age: when incorrect, the youngest children produced any emotion label; older children produced labels of the correct valence; and the majority of the 5-year-olds' responses were of the correct specific emotion category. These results indicate that the free-labeling task per se is not too difficult even for 2-year-olds, but that children's use of emotion terms is not initially linked to facial expressions. Thus, the children's production of emotion terms far exceeded their proportion of correct specific emotion category labels. With age, children's implicit definition of emotion terms develops to include the associated facial expression, though this process is not complete for all expressions before the age of 6 years.
Affiliation: Arts, Faculty of
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/9807
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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