Infants' Understanding of the Link Between Visual Perception and Emotion: “If She Can't See Me Doing It, She Won't Get Angry”

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Abstract

Two experiments investigated 18-month-olds' understanding of the link between visual perception and emotion. Infants watched an adult perform actions on objects. An emoter then expressed neutral affect or anger toward the adult in response to the adult's actions. Subsequently, infants were given 20 s to interact with each object. In Experiment 1, the emoter faced infants with a neutral expression during each 20-s response period but looked at either a magazine or the infant. In Experiment 2, the emoter faced infants with a neutral expression, and her eyes were either open or closed. When the emoter visually monitored infants' actions, the infants regulated their object-directed behavior on the basis of their memory of the emoter's affect. However, if the previously angry emoter read a magazine (Experiment 1) or closed her eyes (Experiment 2), infants were not governed by her prior emotion. Infants behaved as if they expected the emoter to get angry only if she could see them performing the actions. These findings suggest that infants appreciate how people's visual experiences influence their emotions and use this information to regulate their own behavior.

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