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Andrew M. Herbert, Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross; Facial expression recognition in a sample of neglected children. Journal of Vision 2004;4(11):55. https://doi.org/10.1167/4.11.55.
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Facial expression recognition was examined in severely neglected adopted children enrolled in a therapeutic summer camp because of problems integrating into their adoptive families. One difficulty the adoptive parents reported was that their children did not respond appropriately to facial expressions. We examined the hypothesis that a deficit in facial expression discrimination underlies this problem. We report results from testing different children in two summers. Year 1 testing included discriminating schematic faces from nonfaces, distinguishing between pairs of photographs of facial expressions (Same/Different task), and indicating the photographed expression matching the emotion (Happy, Sad or Angry) of a person described in a ‘Vignette’. In Year 2, the Same/Different task was completed along with two Vignette tasks differing in test stimuli — schematic versus photographed expressions. Discriminating faces from nonfaces and accuracy on the Same/Different Task were near perfect. Performance on the Vignette tasks differed depending on the emotion (Happy better than Sad and Angry). There was significant improvement in post camp scores for the Sad and Angry Vignettes in non-native English speaking children (adopted from Eastern European institutions) where photos of expressions were used. This change was not evident for schematic expressions. The results showed the children could distinguish faces from nonfaces and recognize different emotions presented verbally or visually. Their difficulties may lie in linking their percepts and cognitive processes in the Vignettes Task. A lack of normal socialization in cases of severe neglect may affect the ability to use subtle differences in negative expressions in nonverbal communication.
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