CRVAW Faculty Journal Articles


Children's and Adults' Recognition of Spontaneous and Posed Emotional Expressions in Young Children


The present study investigated the degree to which 4–5 yr olds (n = 48) can enact expressions of emotion recognizable by peers and adults; the study also examined whether accuracy of recognition was a function of age and whether the expression was posed or spontaneous. Adults (n = 103) were much more accurate than children in recognizing neutral states, slightly more accurate in recognizing happiness and anger, and equally accurate in recognizing sadness. Children's spontaneous displays of happiness were more recognizable than posed displays, but for other emotions there was no difference between the recognizability of posed and spontaneous expressions. Children were highly accurate in identifying the facial expressions of happiness, sadness, and anger displayed by their peers. Sex and ethnicity of the child whose emotion was displayed interacted to influence only adults' recognizability of anger. Results are discussed in terms of the social learning and cognitive developmental factors influencing (a) adults' and children's decoding (recognition) of emotional expressions in young children and (b) encoding (posing) of emotional expressions by young children.

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