«Introduction On emotion tasks, preschoolers frequently select the anger face as disgusted and the disgust face as angry. • e.g, Preschoolers (3 to ...»
control trial established that children, and adults, could and would say ‘no’ to the experimenter:
The vast majority of the children (.73 to 1.00), and adults (.88 to.95) excluded both the anger and the disgust faces from the happy category.
On the disgust trial (Figure 4A), significantly more (p.001) Labeling Level 6s and adults agreed that the disgust face was disgusted than did Labeling Level 2-4, and significantly more (p =.03) adults agreed than did Labeling Level 5s.
The most interesting finding was in the angry trial: When asked if each face was angry (Figure 4B), more children in Labeling Levels 2-4 and 5 agreed that the disgust face was angry than they had for the anger face; this difference was significant (p =.03) for Labeling Level 5. The major change occurred at Labeling Level 6, when children began using disgusted, where significantly fewer (p ≤.001) children agreed that the disgust face was angry than had children at lower Labeling Levels. Even.50 of the adults agreed that the disgust face was angry.
Widen & Russell (ISRE 2006) 6 So, the beginning of the use of disgusted coincided not with a change in the disgust category, but with a narrowing of the anger category, and there was no improvement from Labeling Level 6 to adults.
Choice-from-Array task. In two parallel weighted means, repeated measures ANOVAs (alpha =.05), Labeling Level (4 levels: Labeling Level 2-4, 5, 6, adults) was the between-subjects factor, and emotion (2 levels: anger, disgust), nested in trial (3 levels: angry, disgusted, happy), was the within subject-factor. For the first-choice analysis, the dependent variable was whether, or not, on a given trial, the children chose anger or disgust face from the array first (scored 1 or 0, trial (scored 1 or 0, respectively). For the total-choice analysis, the dependent variable was whether, or not, on a given trial, the children chose anger or disgust face from the array over the course of the whole (scored 1 or 0, respectively).
Widen & Russell (ISRE 2006) 7 The trial x emotion x Labeling Level interaction was significant in both analyses: first choice, F(6, 168) = 13.12, p.001; total choices, F(6, 168) = 10.78, p.001. The happy control trial established that children, and adults, could and would omit the anger and disgust faces from a nontarget category: In both analyses, at all Labeling Levels, all participants chose the anger and the disgust faces at floor levels (range: 0-.09).
On the disgust trial, when children were asked to find the disgust face(s) from the array of six faces, (Figure 5A), in the first choice analysis, the proportion of children who chose the disgust face first increased significantly (p.001) with Labeling Level, and the proportion of adults’ who chose the disgust face first was significantly higher than each of the children’s Labeling Level. However, in the total choices analysis, there was no significant change with age for the children, but the proportion of adults who chose the disgust face first was significantly higher (p.04) than Labeling Levels 2-4 and 5. Few children, and no adults, chose the anger face first on Widen & Russell (ISRE 2006) 8 the disgust trial; this proportion did not change significantly with Labeling Level. But, in the total choices analysis, although there was no significant change with Labeling Level for the children, the proportion of children at Labeling Levels 2-4 who chose the anger face first was significantly higher (p =.006) than adults.
Again, the most interesting results occurred on the angry trial (Figure 5B): When asked to find the angry face(s) from the array, the proportion who chose the anger face first increased significantly (p.003) with Labeling Level. In the total choices analysis, the proportion of total choices did not change significantly with Labeling Level. More children at Labeling Levels 2-4 and 5 than at Labeling Level 6 chose the disgust face first than chose the anger face first; this difference was significant for Labeling Level 2-4 (p.001). But, significantly fewer children at Labeling Level 6 chose the disgust face as angry than did children at lower Labeling Levels, both on their first choice (p.02) and for their total choices (p.02).
Thus, on the choice-from-array task, on which all the faces were displayed at once, the children at lower Labeling Levels treated the anger and disgust faces as equally good signals of anger, and may even have seen the disgust face as the better exemplar of the anger category. The major change occurred at Labeling Level 6: the beginning of the use of disgusted coincided with a narrowing of the anger category.
Discussion In the current study, children’s and adults’ responses on three tasks revealed ‘confusions’ between anger and disgust.
• The pervasiveness of these ‘confusions,’ by both children and adults, and on three different tasks for anger and disgust, suggests that they are not confusions at all.
• Indeed, every study that we are aware of that included these pairs of facial expressions and reported participants’ ‘errors’ found this pattern of results (Bormann-Kischkel, HildebrandPascher, & Stegbauer, 1990; Boucher & Carlson, 1980; Bullock & Russell, 1984, 1985;
Ekman, 1972; Ekman & Friesen, 1971; Gosselin & Laroque, 2000; Gosselin, & Simard, 1999; Hosie, Gray, Russell, Scott, & Hunter, 1998; Markham & Adams, 1992; Russell & Bullock, 1984a, 1984b; Widen & Russell, 2003, under review; Wiggers, 1982).
• Thus, the better explanation is that these emotion pairs are each similar on the underlying dimensions of pleasure and arousal so that when participants interpret these facial expressions they sometimes interpret the prototypical disgust expression, for example, as displaying anger.
Although both children and adults showed similar patterns of responses in their anger and disgust categories, there was also evidence of development in children’s understanding of these categories.
• Specifically, children who used disgusted on free labeling were better able to exclude the disgust faces from the anger categories on both the yes/no and the choice-from-array tasks.
• Surprisingly, using disgusted had little effect on the disgust category: Although the disgust category narrowed with development, there were no significant differences in categorization between Labeling Level 5 (children who used five target emotion labels, but not disgusted) and Labeling Level 6 (children who used all six target emotion labels, including disgusted).
Widen & Russell (ISRE 2006) 9
• Thus, using disgusted coincided primarily with a narrowing of the anger category.
• Future research could further test the pattern of responses for the fear and surprise categories using categorization tasks such as the ones used here.
• Another avenue for future research is to investigate whether these patterns occur only for facial expressions or for other aspects of emotion, such as labeling brief stories describing emotion events, for example.
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