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Age, gender, and puberty influence the development of facial emotion recognition

Lawrence, K; Campbell, R; Skuse, D; (2015) Age, gender, and puberty influence the development of facial emotion recognition. Frontiers in Psychology , 6 , Article 761. 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00761. Green open access

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Abstract

Our ability to differentiate between simple facial expressions of emotion develops between infancy and early adulthood, yet few studies have explored the developmental trajectory of emotion recognition using a single methodology across a wide age-range. We investigated the development of emotion recognition abilities through childhood and adolescence, testing the hypothesis that children's ability to recognize simple emotions is modulated by chronological age, pubertal stage and gender. In order to establish norms, we assessed 478 children aged 6-16 years, using the Ekman-Friesen Pictures of Facial Affect. We then modeled these cross-sectional data in terms of competence in accurate recognition of the six emotions studied, when the positive correlation between emotion recognition and IQ was controlled. Significant linear trends were seen in children's ability to recognize facial expressions of happiness, surprise, fear, and disgust; there was improvement with increasing age. In contrast, for sad and angry expressions there is little or no change in accuracy over the age range 6-16 years; near-adult levels of competence are established by middle-childhood. In a sampled subset, pubertal status influenced the ability to recognize facial expressions of disgust and anger; there was an increase in competence from mid to late puberty, which occurred independently of age. A small female advantage was found in the recognition of some facial expressions. The normative data provided in this study will aid clinicians and researchers in assessing the emotion recognition abilities of children and will facilitate the identification of abnormalities in a skill that is often impaired in neurodevelopmental disorders. If emotion recognition abilities are a good model with which to understand adolescent development, then these results could have implications for the education, mental health provision and legal treatment of teenagers.

Type: Article
Title: Age, gender, and puberty influence the development of facial emotion recognition
Location: Switzerland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00761
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00761
Language: English
Additional information: © 2015 Lawrence, Campbell and Skuse. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: child development, emotion, emotion recognition, face recognition, facial expression, social cognition
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Population, Policy and Practice Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472141
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