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Preschool children's ability to identify and label emotions


The present study examined preschoolers' and adults' ability to identify and label the emotions of happiness, sadness, and anger when presented through either the face channel alone, the voice channel alone, or the face and voice channels together. Subjects were also asked to rate the intensity of the expression. The results revealed that children aged three to five years are able to accurately identify and label emotions of happy, sad, and angry regardless of channel presentation. Similar results were obtained for the adult group. While younger children (33 to 53 months of age) were equally accurate in identifying the three emotions, older children (54 to 68 months of age) and adults made more incorrect responses when identifying expressions of sadness. Intensity ratings also differed according to the age of the subject and the emotion being rated.

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Author information

Correspondence to Cynthia A. Stifter Ph.D..

Additional information

Support for this research was from a grant by the National Science Foundatin (#01523721) to Nathan A. Fox. The authors would like to thank Professor A. Caron for providing the original videotape, Joyce Dinsmoor for her help in data collection and the staff of the Center for Young Children for their cooperation.

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Stifter, C.A., Fox, N.A. Preschool children's ability to identify and label emotions. J Nonverbal Behav 11, 43–54 (1987).

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  • Young Child
  • Social Psychology
  • Preschool Child
  • Incorrect Response
  • Intensity Rating