When Children Talk about the Causes of Their Emotions, How Well Do Adults and other Children Understand Which Emotion They are Talking about?


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Abstract

100 subjects from Grade 2, Grade 5, and university levels decoded statements describing the antecedents of seven emotions produced by Kindergarten and Grade 8 students. The experiment was designed to determine whether adults and different children could correctly identify the emotions whose causes were being described by the children. Accuracy in decoding increased with age of decoder, but subjects from Grade 2 were better at decoding statements made by Kindergarten children while adults were better at decoding statements produced by Grade 8 subjects. Even for statements generated by Kindergarten children, however, adults were better decoders than subjects from Grades 2 or 5. The emotions of happiness and comfort were decoded most accurately, those of anger and guilt least accurately. Several other significant effects are reported, involving the age of origin, the age of respondent, and sex of origin and emotion. A cognitive developmental theory such as Piaget's is selected as best explaining the results reported above.

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