September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
The Development of Emotion Perception: Evidence from an Unconstrained Sorting Task
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Catherine J Mondloch
    Psychology, Brock University
  • Claire M Matthews
    Psychology, Brock University
  • Shelby Howlett
    Psychology, Brock University
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 138c. doi:
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      Catherine J Mondloch, Claire M Matthews, Shelby Howlett; The Development of Emotion Perception: Evidence from an Unconstrained Sorting Task. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):138c.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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In most studies investigating the development of emotion perception, the number of categories is constrained (e.g., by verbal labels, by the predetermined number of categories into which expressions can be sorted). Here we adapted a task developed by Yan et al. (2016) in which participants freely sort photographs based on expression. We tested children’s ability to recognize (i.e., to put multiple images of the same expression into the same pile) and discriminate (i.e., to put images of different expressions into different piles) facial displays of emotion. We measured the number of piles made (correct = 4), number of confusion errors (calculated by subtracting 1 from the number of emotions in each pile and summing across piles, correct = 0), and the pattern of errors (in a confusion matrix). Children aged 5 to 11 years (n=25) sorted one of two sets of 20 photos, each comprised of 5 images of 4 expressions: sad, anger, fear, and disgust. They were free to make as many/few piles as they wanted. Both the mean number of piles (4.56) and mean number of confusion errors (2.48) were comparable to those observed by Yan et al. (2016) when adults sorted own-race faces, with no age-related change in performance, ps>.20. The number of different piles into which each expression was placed (reflecting over-discrimination) varied across emotion, p< .001, with fear faces being placed into more piles (M = 2.28) than the other expressions (Ms < 1.6). A confusion matrix revealed that most errors involved confusion of sad and fear (20% of confusion errors) and disgust with anger (36% of confusion errors); sad was rarely confused with anger or disgust (< 6% of errors) and fear was rarely confused with anger (8% of errors). We discuss the implications for theories of development of emotion perception.

Acknowledgement: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada 

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