Age and Gender Differences in Decoding Basic and Non-basic Facial Expressions in Late Childhood and Early Adolescence

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Abstract

This study examined age and gender differences in decoding nonverbal cues in a school population of 606 (pre)adolescents (9-15 years). The focus was on differences in the perceived intensity of several emotions in both basic and non-basic facial expressions. Age differences were found in decoding low intensity and ambiguous faces, but not in basic expressions. Older adolescents indicated more negative meaning in these more subtle and complex facial cues. Girls attributed more anger to both basic and non-basic facial expressions and showed a general negative bias in decoding non-basic facial expressions compared to boys. Findings are interpreted in the light of the development of emotion regulation and the importance for developing relationships.

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