Facial Expressions and Ability to Recognize Emotions From Eyes or Mouth in Children

Maria Guarnera, Zira Hichy, Maura I. Cascio, Stefano Carrubba


This research aims to contribute to the literature on the ability to recognize anger, happiness, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust and neutral emotions from facial information. By investigating children’s performance in detecting these emotions from a specific face region, we were interested to know whether children would show differences in recognizing these expressions from the upper or lower face, and if any difference between specific facial regions depended on the emotion in question. For this purpose, a group of 6-7 year-old children was selected. Participants were asked to recognize emotions by using a labeling task with three stimulus types (region of the eyes, of the mouth, and full face). The findings seem to indicate that children correctly recognize basic facial expressions when pictures represent the whole face, except for a neutral expression, which was recognized from the mouth, and sadness, which was recognized from the eyes. Children are also able to identify anger from the eyes as well as from the whole face. With respect to gender differences, there is no female advantage in emotional recognition. The results indicate a significant interaction ‘gender x face region’ only for anger and neutral emotions.


facial expressions; emotions; children; recognizing from eyes; recognizing from mouth; labeling task

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