Facial Age Cues Moderate Emotion Recognition on Faces of Children and Young adults

Craig, B. (University of New England), Minkov, R. (University of New England)

Previous research shows that the speed and accuracy of recognising emotional expressions depends on other social information available on faces. For example, the happy categorisation advantage—the faster categorisation of happiness than of other negative expressions—is observed when the expresser is a young adult, but not an older adult. The aim of the current study was to examine how cues of youthfulness rather than old age influence emotion recognition. Across two experiments using faces sourced from different face databases, participants (Experiment 1, N = 148; Experiment 2, N = 192) categorised happy vs. angry, happy vs. fearful, and happy vs. sad expressions on faces of children and young adults as quickly and accurately as possible. Overall, the happy categorisation advantage was significantly larger for child than for adult faces when participants were categorising happiness vs. anger or fear, but not when categorising happiness vs. sadness. These results are most consistent with the evaluative congruence account, which proposes that relatively positive evaluations of children facilitates a larger happy advantage for children’s faces.

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Close Relationships and Individual Differences