A Label Superiority Effect in Children's Categorization of Facial Expressions

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In three studies (N's = 360, 68, 160), children (2 to 7 years of age) were asked to categorize various facial expressions. The emotion category was specified to the child by its label (such as happy), its facial expression (such as a smile), or both. From the youngest to the oldest children and for all 3 emotion categories examined (happiness, anger, and sadness), results showed a Label Superiority Effect: emotion labels resulted in more accurate categorization than did the corresponding facial expression. Errors conformed to a structural model emphasizing the dimension of pleasure-displeasure.

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