Auditory emotion word primes influence emotional face categorization in children and adults, but not vice versa

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  • Michael Vesker
  • Daniela Bahn
  • Christina Kauschke
  • Monika Tschense
  • Franziska Degé
  • Gudrun Schwarzer

In order to assess how the perception of audible speech and facial expressions influence one another for the perception of emotions, and how this influence might change over the course of development, we conducted two cross-modal priming experiments with three age groups of children (6-, 9-, and 12-years old), as well as college-aged adults. In Experiment 1, 74 children and 24 adult participants were tasked with categorizing photographs of emotional faces as positive or negative as quickly as possible after being primed with emotion words presented via audio in valence-congruent and valence-incongruent trials. In Experiment 2, 67 children and 24 adult participants carried out a similar categorization task, but with faces acting as visual primes, and emotion words acting as auditory targets. The results of Experiment 1 showed that participants made more errors when categorizing positive faces primed by negative words versus positive words, and that 6-year-old children are particularly sensitive to positive word primes, giving faster correct responses regardless of target valence. Meanwhile, the results of Experiment 2 did not show any congruency effects for priming by facial expressions. Thus, audible emotion words seem to exert an influence on the emotional categorization of faces, while faces do not seem to influence the categorization of emotion words in a significant way.

Original languageEnglish
Article number618
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2018
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Categorization, Cross-modal integration, Developmental changes, Emotion processing, Emotion words, Emotional facial expressions, Priming effects
  • Psychology
  • Language Studies