May 2008
Volume 8, Issue 6
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   May 2008
Surprised but not scared: Similarities and differences in the perceptual structure of facial expressions of 7-year-olds and adults
Author Affiliations
  • Xiaoqing Gao
    Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
  • Daphne Maurer
    Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
Journal of Vision May 2008, Vol.8, 705. doi:10.1167/8.6.705
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      Xiaoqing Gao, Daphne Maurer; Surprised but not scared: Similarities and differences in the perceptual structure of facial expressions of 7-year-olds and adults. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):705. doi: 10.1167/8.6.705.

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Abstract

Children's ability to recognize facial expressions develops slowly through childhood. Pre-adolescent children are not as accurate as adults in recognizing intense facial expressions, especially when the expression is negative (e.g., fear and disgust, Durand et al., 2007). Studies using multidimensional scaling (MDS) indicate that adults' perception of facial expressions can be modeled by two underlying dimensions, namely, pleasure and arousal. In the current study, we used MDS to compare the perceptual structure of children and adults for facial expressions. When based only on intense expressions, the perceptual structure for facial expressions appears to already be adult-like in preschoolers (Russell & Bullock, 1985; 1986). Here, we collected similarity scores from a group of adults (n=16) using a rating paradigm and from another group of adults (n=16) and a group of 7-year-olds (n=16) using an “odd-one-out” paradigm for four different intensity levels of each of the facial expressions of six basic emotions. We calculated a three-dimensional solution using the INDSCAL procedure for each group (stress: 0.153 − 0.197), and applied hierarchical clustering analysis to the MDS solutions. Although tested with different paradigms, the two groups of adults had similar clustering. Similar to adults, children showed separated clusters for happiness and for anger, as well as a cluster including both sadness and disgust. Surprise and fear were clustered together in adults, but not in children. In adults, neutral was located close to happiness with all the lowest intensity expressions around it, while in children, neutral was close to surprise, and the lowest intensity expressions diverged from their main categories, but were not pulled toward neutral. The results suggest that 7-year-olds have a systematic perceptual structure of facial expressions that overlaps only partially with that of adults.

Gao, X. Maurer, D. (2008). Surprised but not scared: Similarities and differences in the perceptual structure of facial expressions of 7-year-olds and adults [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 8(6):705, 705a, http://journalofvision.org/8/6/705/, doi:10.1167/8.6.705. [CrossRef]
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