Evidence for early arousal‐based differentiation of emotions in children’s musical production
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Accurate perception and production of emotional states is important for successful social interactions across the lifespan. Previous research has shown that when identifying emotion in faces, preschool children are more likely to confuse emotions that share valence, but differ in arousal (e.g. sadness and anger) than emotions that share arousal, but differ on valence (e.g. anger and joy). Here, we examined the influence of valence and arousal on children's production of emotion in music. Three-, 5- and 7-year-old children recruited from the greater Hamilton area (N = 74) 'performed' music to produce emotions using a self-pacing paradigm, in which participants controlled the onset and offset of each chord in a musical sequence by repeatedly pressing and lifting the same key on a MIDI piano. Key press velocity controlled the loudness of each chord. Results showed that (a) differentiation of emotions by 5-year-old children was mainly driven by arousal of the target emotion, with differentiation based on both valence and arousal at 7 years and (b) tempo and loudness were used to differentiate emotions earlier in development than articulation. The results indicate that the developmental trajectory of emotion understanding in music may differ from the developmental trajectory in other domains.
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