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Volume 6 Issue 5 (November 2003), Pages 449-603

Recognition, discrimination and categorization of smiling by 5‐month‐old infants (pages 585-599)


Perceiving emotions correctly is foundational to the development of interpersonal skills. Five‐month‐old infants’ abilities to recognize, discriminate and categorize facial expressions of smiling were tested in three coordinated experiments. Infants were habituated to four degrees of smiling modeled by the same or different people; following habituation, infants were presented with a new degree of smile worn by the same and by a new person (Experiment 1), a new degree of smile and a fearful expression worn by the same person (Experiment 2) or a new degree of smile and a fearful expression worn by new people (Experiment 3). Infants showed significant novelty preferences for the new person smiling and for the fearful expressions over the new degree of smiling. These findings indicate that infants at 5 months can categorize the facial expression of smiling in static faces, and yet recognize the same person despite changes in facial expression; this is the youngest age at which these abilities have been demonstrated. The findings are discussed in light of the significance of emotion expression face processing in social interaction and infants’ categorization of faces.

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