Similarities and differences in the perceptual structure of facial expressions of children and adults Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We explored the perceptual structure of facial expressions of six basic emotions, varying systematically in intensity, in adults and children aged 7 and 14 years. Multidimensional scaling suggested that three- or four-dimensional structures were optimal for all groups. Two groups of adults demonstrated nearly identical structure, which had dimensions representing pleasure, potency, arousal, and intensity, despite the fact that one group was tested with a child-friendly "odd-man-out" paradigm and the other group was tested with a conventional similarity-rating paradigm. When tested with the odd-man-out paradigm, the 7-year-olds showed systematic structure, which differed from that of adults in both the meaning of some dimensions and the proximities among some of the expression categories. When tested with similarity judgments, the 14-year-olds showed an adult-like pattern on all measures except that their similarity judgments were more influenced by physical differences than were those of adults. We conclude that an adult-like representation of facial expressions develops slowly during childhood.

publication date

  • January 2010