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Emotion words link faces to emotional scenarios in early childhood.


Recent theories have suggested that emotion words may facilitate the development of emotion concepts. The present study investigates whether emotion words affect children's performance on an emotion category learning task. Across two experiments, 72 three-year-old children (49 female) were asked to identify which emotional face best matched particular emotional scenarios during nine pretest and nine posttest trials. The scenarios in the present studies aligned with emotions typically learned among older age groups (annoyed, disgusted, and nervous). Between pretest and posttest, children participated in training in which a facial configuration (annoyed, disgusted, or nervous) was paired with an associated scenario while they heard the emotion labeled explicitly or heard irrelevant information (Experiment 1) or heard a broad emotion label versus irrelevant information (Experiment 2). Aside from the labels presented, all other information was kept the same across conditions, including the specific faces and scenarios heard during learning trials. In Experiment 1, children's emotion understanding increased more from pretest to posttest in the explicit label versus irrelevant condition, t(34) = 2.26, p = .030, d = .75, but in Experiment 2 the broad emotion labels did not provide an advantage over irrelevant information, t(34) = .72, p = .474, d = .24. These results suggest that emotion labels may be particularly helpful for young children learning about unfamiliar emotions, because specific labels may help children to aggregate disparate emotional information into meaningful categories. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

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