Individual talks: Emotion and development

July 11th Room 3

Preschoolers’ communication about discrete emotions 

Jennifer Knothe & Eric Walle

Emotion understanding involves both labeling the discrete emotion and appreciating the significant person-environment relation. While previous work has examined children’s emotion labeling, how children appreciate relational elements of emotion contexts remains understudied. This study examined how contextual information influenced young children’s emotion labeling and attention to emotion-related elements. Children aged 3.5-years (n = 22; 13 female) and 4.5-years (n = 23; 11 female) described images of 5 emotion faces and 5 emotion contexts (anger, sadness, disgust, fear, and joy). Analyses of emotion labeling revealed that 4.5-year-olds were more accurate in labeling disgust when the facial expression was presented with contextual information than the face alone (p = .02). No differences were present for the 3.5-year-olds. We also examined children’s highlighting of distinct relational elements in the context images (the emoter and referent) as a function of the discrete emotion. Analyses of 4.5-year-olds demonstrated significant main effects of picture emotion for mentioning the emoter, p = .02, and the referent, p < .001. Children emphasized the emoter more when describing anger, sadness, and joy contexts than those of fear and disgust, and mentioned the referent more in disgust, fear, and joy contexts than contexts of anger and sadness. No such differential emphasis of relational elements was observed for 3.5-year-olds. These findings highlight developmental differences in how contextual elements differentially impact children’s emotion labeling and how children attend toward specific aspects of discrete emotional contexts. Considerations for future paradigms to explain and extend these findings will be discussed.

Cultural differences of adolescents’ emotions during conflict with parents 

Reiko Kawamura, Koen Luyckx & Batja Mesquita

Previous cross-cultural studies of emotions have found cultural differences in the most prevalent emotions. Emotions that help to achieve culturally valued relational goals are the most prevalent in different cultures. For example, individuating emotions such as anger are more prevalent in independent cultures, whereas connecting emotions such as shame are more prevalent in interdependent cultural contexts. The current study applied these insights to adolescence. Western research in adolescence suggests that parent-adolescent conflict peaks during adolescence, and is associated with relatively high levels of anger in adolescents. We predicted, however, that anger would be less prevalent in adolescents from interdependent cultures. Conversely, we expected that adolescents in cultures that consider connectedness (rather than independence) as the main developmental goal for adolescents, would experience more connecting emotions such as shame. Finally, we examined whether emotions claiming independence would predict more (relational) well-being in a Western context, whereas connecting emotions would predict more well-being in non-Western contexts. Eighty-one mother-adolescent daughter dyads in Belgium and 80 mother-adolescent dyads in Japan were invited to the lab, and engaged in a conflict conversation. The conflict interactions were videotaped. After each conversation, mothers and adolescents separately reported their emotions using video-mediated recall. Each member of the dyad also reported relationship quality. Using multi-level modeling, we will test the hypothesis that daughters in Belgium report more individuating emotions, (e.g. anger), whereas daughters in Japan report more connecting emotions (e.g. shame). Further, relationship quality in Belgium would be predicted by individuating emotions and in Japan by connecting emotions.

Infant appreciation of emotion when attributing preferences from non-random sampling events 

Lukas Lopez & Eric Walle

Toddlers can infer a person’s preference from a violation to a sampling distribution (i.e., a person repeatedly taking a minority object from a collection; Kushnir, Xu, & Wellman, 2010). These statistical cues are typically used in conjunction with positive emotional expressions conveying one’s preference. Negative emotions, such as disgust and sadness, have been shown to communicate object avoidance and goal incompletion to infants, respectively (Repacholi & Gopnik, 1997; Chiarella & Poulin-Dubios, 2014). However, no studies have examined the expression of these negative emotions in the context of non-random sampling. In the present study, 24-month-old infants (N = 21) observed an experimenter express an emotion (i.e., joy, sadness, or disgust) after random and non-random sampling events. Infants were then allowed to give either the target or the alternate toy to the experimenter. Regardless of random or non-random sampling, X2s (1, 20) < 0.48, ps > .68, infants inferred the experimenter’s preference in the joy condition by giving the target toy (71%), and inferred the experimenter’s dis-preference by giving the alternate toy in the sadness (56%) and disgust (63%) conditions. These findings demonstrate that 2-year-olds use emotion expression to guide their interpretation of preferences over statistical information. An ongoing follow-up study with 30-month-olds suggests their appreciation of sampling violations regardless of negative emotional cues. So, although emotional expressions are exclusively relied on earlier in sampling contexts, distributional information may be appreciated more as toddlers age. Age differences on preference attribution from non-random sampling events in conjunction with discrete emotions will be discussed.