Are Age and Sex Related to Emotion Recognition Ability in Children and Teenagers?

(1) Sevilla International College - San Francisco de Paula, Seville, Spain, (2) Physiology Department. Human Ethology Seminar, University of Seville, Seville, Spain
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Recognition of emotional facial expressions is considered a universal ability of human beings. However, despite the large body of literature on the subject, there are discrepancies in the results obtained by different authors about the influence of age and sex on the development of this ability. This inspired the following research question: Are age and sex related to the Emotional Facial Recognition (EFR) ability in children and teenagers? In this study, we investigated the recognition of three facial emotional expressions (i.e. happiness, anger, and sadness) in a population of Spanish children and teenagers. The study included 104 males and 106 females between the ages of 6 and 17 years. To assess the ability to recognize facial emotion, we used a questionnaire with images of different areas of the face (the eyes, the mouth, or the whole face) from models expressing a specific emotion. Our results suggest a subtle female advantage in emotional recognition as well as increasing emotional recognition ability with increasing age. These findings add to the extensive literature about the role of age and sex in EFR ability and suggest the importance of other factors, such as the types of emotion expressed or the areas of the face involved in the emotional expression, in the accuracy of the recognition.

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