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, 34 (5), 1007-16

Children's Decoding of Emotion in Expressive Body Movement: The Development of Cue Attunement

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Children's Decoding of Emotion in Expressive Body Movement: The Development of Cue Attunement

R T Boone et al. Dev Psychol.

Abstract

Little research has focused on children's decoding of emotional meaning in expressive body movement: none has considered which movement cues children use to detect emotional meaning. The current study investigated the general ability to decode happiness, sadness, anger, and fear in dance forms of expressive body movement and the specific ability to detect differences in the intensity of anger and happiness when the relative amount of movement cue specifying each emotion was systematically varied. Four-year-olds (n = 25), 5-year-olds (n = 25), 8-year-olds (n = 29), and adults (n = 24) completed an emotion contrast task and 2 emotion intensity tasks. Decoding ability exceeding chance levels was demonstrated for sadness by 4-year-olds; for sadness, fear, and happiness by 5-year-olds: and for all emotions by 8-year-olds and adults. Children as young as 5 years were shown to rely on emotion-specific movement cues in their decoding of anger and happiness intensity. The theoretical significance of these effects across development is discussed.

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