The development of template-based facial expression perception from 6 to 15 years of age. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • When perceiving emotional facial expressions, adults use a template-matching strategy, comparing the perceived face with a stored representation. A rejection of unnaturally exaggerated faces is characteristic of this strategy because the exaggerated expressions do not match the stored template. In contrast, a rule-based perceptual strategy (e.g., wide eyes indicate surprise) would be more tolerant of exaggeration. The current study uses exaggeration tolerance to test the expression perception strategies of children from 6 to 15 years of age. In Experiment 1, 62 (38 male) participants viewed pairs of happy or sad faces varying in exaggeration and selected the face that looked closest to how a happy (or sad) person really looks. With age, children became less likely to choose the more exaggerated expression. In Experiment 2, this result was replicated with each of the six basic emotions. Sixty-six children (26 male, 50 Caucasian, 10 mixed-race, four Indian, two unidentified) from 6 to 15 years of age completed the same experimental tasks as Experiment 1 for all six emotions. Again, with age children became less likely to choose the more exaggerated face. The results from both experiments suggest that the development of an adult-like template-matching strategy lasts into adolescence. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

publication date

  • January 2022