July 25, 2016 16:30 - 18:00

Categorical perception of emotions in adults and pre-verbal infants: Evidence from new coloured stimuli

[Speaker] Cong, Yongqi:1
[Co-author] Junge, Caroline:1,2, Aktar, Evin:1, Raijmakers, Maartje:1, Sauter, Disa:1
1:University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), 2:University of Utrecht (Netherlands)

Research shows that adults perceive emotional expressions categorically, meaning that discrimination is faster and more accurate for expressions from different emotion categories. Some argue that this process is shaped by language. We tested emotion perception in the absence of language by examining pre-verbal infants. Using morphed-images of facial expressions displaying different extent of fear and happiness, we first replicated this effect in adults. We then tested 7-month-olds on their processing of novel stimuli after habituation using a looking time paradigm. Infants were first habituated to one specific emotional expression, then presented with that image paired with a new expression that either did or did not cross the emotion-category boundary, with the amount of physical difference being constant. Infants showed a novelty preference only for between-category expressions, meaning the difference within these paired-expressions were easier to recognize. This suggests that categorical perception of emotions exists prior to acquiring the verbal labels.
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