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Perceiving arousal and valence in facial expressions: Differences between children and adults

Vesker et al. (2017) European Journal of Developmental Psychology

Arousal and valence have long been studied as the two primary dimensions for
the perception of emotional stimuli such as facial expressions. Prior correlational
studies that tested emotion perception along these dimensions found broad
similarities between adults and children. However, few studies looked for
direct differences between children and adults in these dimensions beyond
correlation. We tested 9-year-old children and adults on rating positive and
negative facial stimuli based on emotional arousal and valence. Despite high
significant correlations between children’s and adults’ ratings, our findings also
showed significant differences between children and adults in terms of rating
values: Children rated all expressions as significantly more positive than adults
in valence. Children also rated positive emotions as more arousing than adults.
Our results show that although perception of facial emotions along arousal and
valence follows similar patterns in children and adults, some differences in ratings
persist, and vary by emotion type.

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